You know what’s rarer for the Carolina Panthers in their history than a Super Bowl appearance?
The Panthers have made it to the Super Bowl twice since starting play in the NFL in 1995. But they’ve only played in one tie game in 370 regular-season contests, which brings us to this week’s opponent.
Carolina and Cincinnati only play once every four years. In their last meeting, in 2014, they played to a weirdly entertaining 37-37 tie in Cincinnati. The same two quarterbacks face off again Sunday — Cam Newton and Andy Dalton.
I found my old notes about that game this week and was captivated all over again about how bizarre the game was. It only ended in a tie because Cincinnati kicker Mike Nugent missed a 36-yard field goal on the final play of the fifth quarter. What else was unusual? Glad you asked. Here are five oddities.
1. A number of players didn’t know the regular-season NFL rules about overtime – specifically the one that says you stop playing if the game is still tied after 15 extra minutes. That’s happened twice already this NFL season, but usually it’s far less common than that.
“I didn’t know you could tie in the NFL,” then-Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin said afterward.
2. Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict played one of the dirtiest games I’ve ever seen, yanking and twisting the ankles of both tight end Greg Olsen and Newton. Both were coming off ankle injuries.
Burfict wasn’t flagged on either play (he was later fined but not suspended). He did draw two 15-yard penalties for two other personal fouls.
Said a furious Olsen after the game about Burfict: “I think the punishment needs to go beyond a fine. Guys like that don’t learn from that stuff. He’s been fined 100 times for head-hunting, and he did it to (receiver) Kelvin (Benjamin) again.” Burfict will miss Sunday’s game because he’s serving a four-game suspension for PEDs. So will Olsen, beecause of a foot injury.
3. Cincinnati gained 513 yards — and wide receiver A.J. Green didn’t play. Gio Bernard, who will be Cincinnati’s No. 1 back again Sunday with Joe Mixon out because of injury, had an 89-yard touchdown run.
4. In five quarters, there were only two punts — and 58 combined first downs.
5. Carolina was almost a one-man show on offense, as Newton threw for 284 yards and ran for 107 more. Newton also unleashed one of his best Yogi Berra-esque quotes ever after the game when asked about a certain fourth-down call, saying: “Hindsight is always 50-50 — or 20-20 — whatever the number is.”
▪ Prediction time. I went to 2-0 on the season by correctly calling Carolina’s loss to Atlanta last week. This time I believe the Panthers will play slightly better on defense and that Newton and Christian McCaffrey will both have big days. My pick: Carolina 30, Cincinnati 24.