For better or worse Sunday night, quintessential Ted Ginn Jr. was on full display in the Superdome.
You saw the Carolina Panthers wide receiver’s speed as he ran away from a linebacker in coverage. You saw the dropped pass, and then you saw another. And you saw touchdowns.
A nine-year veteran, Ginn will wow and he will disappoint. That is who he’s been as a football player since coming to the league in 2007 where he was labeled a bust in Miami and then an afterthought in San Francisco.
But he flourished with the Carolina Panthers in his first stint here in 2013 and he’s picked it back up in his second act in 2015.
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“I know I didn’t come down with a couple of catches today but the ones I did come down with put points on the board,” Ginn said.
If the outcome of the game had been different – if Carolina had not won 41-38 to move to 12-0 on the season – then perhaps Ginn wouldn’t have been so optimistic about his performance.
Make no mistake: Those drops were crucial.
On first down from the Panthers’ 28 in the third quarter, quarterback Cam Newton looked deep for Ginn down the sideline. Ginn showed the speed that made him a legend in Ohio and has kept him in the league for nine years.
But then he also showed why he’s had such a spotted career. It was a clear drop on a play that could have resulted in a touchdown. Three plays later, the Panthers punted.
Then late in the fourth quarter Ginn had an even more egregious drop. There were less than 4 minutes in the game and Newton had an open Ginn for what would definitely have been a touchdown. It would have put the Panthers back on top late in the game.
Ginn dropped that one too. Fortunately for the Panthers there was a defensive holding call that continued the drive – one that was capped by a Jerricho Cotchery score.
“The two drops,” Ginn said, “I have no excuse. I dropped them. Period.”
Pressed twice more, Ginn wouldn’t budge. He said wasn’t going to make any excuses, and in his mind elaborating on the drops would be excuse-making.
Tight end Greg Olsen doesn’t drop many, but he’s had a few in his career, which happens when you’re good enough to get targeted a lot.
“You just know that Cam’s coming right back to you. That’s been our mentality,”Olsen said. “You have enough balls thrown your way, you’re going to miss some. It’s just the reality of the situation.
“You try not to. You work your (butt) off not to but these things happen. If you want to play in this league you’ve got to deal with adversity and bad things happening. The guys who can succeed bounce back, a la Ted making probably the catch of the game to take the lead back for us.”
Ginn had a third-quarter touchdown catch that went 13 yards to make it 20-16 Carolina – the Panthers’ first lead of the game.
But his biggest catch came early in the fourth quarter. For whatever reason, the Saints decided to have rookie linebacker Stephone Anthony covering Ginn in the open field. Ginn had a full head of steam, and his speed regularly beats cornerbacks, much less linebackers.
He zoomed past Anthony and hauled in a 45-yard touchdown that gave Carolina a 34-31 lead.
Even if Newton wanted to stop throwing to a receiver on Sunday night, he couldn’t. The Panthers only had four receivers active.
But Newton has shown that if you’re on the team and you’re an eligible receiver, the ball could be coming your way. He has a confidence in his receivers in a way that Ginn described as familial.
“It’s football. That’s the only thing I can really say. It’s football,” Ginn said. “We know one another, know each other. We know what we can do. We’ve just got to connect.
“We knew somewhere down the line it was going to happen and it happened in a big-time situation for us. We’re just happy. We are brothers here. It wasn’t easy but it was fun. Everybody had a part in it, and now everybody can say they’re NFC South champions again.”