Scott Fowler

Panthers win a wet and wild one over Indy in OT, 29-26

dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Have you ever seen a better, wetter game?

The Carolina Panthers won, then lost, then won again a wild overtime game against Indianapolis Monday night, 29-26, in a game that didn’t end until early Tuesday morning.

Graham Gano’s 52-yard field goal in OT won the game and made up for his botched extra point earlier in the fourth quarter that had helped allow the Colts get back into it. It was a bizarre ending that was set up by linebacker Luke Kuechly’s interception in overtime of Andrew Luck -- and that one came only after Kuechly had dropped a near-interception in the end zone with two seconds left in regulation.

▪  You have to hand it to Panthers fans Monday night. Despite an all-day rain and some localized flooding, they showed up in force -- and mostly in ponchos -- for Monday Night's game. And although there will be a lot of sleepy people at work and school Tuesday, you’d have to say it was worth it.

▪  Ted Ginn Jr. is not a No. 1 receiver, but he has been thrust into that role with Kelvin Benjamin’s injury. Sometimes, he does fine with it. Sometimes, he doesn’t. On Monday night, he had what would have been a 56-yard touchdown pass hit him directly in the chest in overtime -- and he dropped it.

Carolina still managed to get a game-tying field goal from Gano on its first possession in overtime, helped by a one-handed catch by Greg Olsen. Indianapolis already had its own overtime field goal on its first possession, but by rule the Panthers were allowed one possession. Gano hit his first goal and then his second, the 52-yarder, to win it -- but it all would have been a little easier if Ginn hadn’t dropped the TD pass.

▪  The Panthers (7-0) now can say they have lasted at least a week longer than Green Bay as the last undefeated team in the NFC. Sunday’s 1 p.m. game in Charlotte will be very significant for playoff homefield advantage.

▪  The rain was a character in the game's story all night. Andrew Luck's center couldn't get the ball off the ground on the second play from scrimmage, and Indianapolis turned it over. Cam Newton fumbled a snap himself -- at the Indianapolis 1. Both quarterbacks floated some balls and skipped others into the ground. Olsen uncharacteristically dropped a wide-open pass that would have gained 20 yards.

For all that, though, the Panthers handled the wet track much better than Indianapolis early. The Colts turned the ball over twice in their first five plays, leading to 10 early Carolina points.

▪  It seems fitting that a riverboat would show up on such a soggy day, and indeed we saw the return of "Riverboat Ron" in the first quarter. After Carolina had to settle for a field goal off the Colts' first turnover, Rivera gambled twice on the second drive and skipped out on another short field goal.

Both plays were fourth-and-1, and both times the team that leads the NFL in rushing did what you thought it would do. Cam Newton got two yards on a quarterback run from the shotgun on the first one, and Jonathan Stewart banged into the end zone on fourth-and-1 from the 3 on the second.

▪  Protesters rappelled from the upper deck in the second half and unveiled a sign that read "Dump Dominion." Which made everyone wonder: How did they get through security with rappelling gear?

[UPDATE: 4 arrested after protesters rappel from BofA Stadium during Panthers game.]

▪  Jordin Sparks, an "American Idol" winner in 2007 and the daughter of former NFL cornerback Philippi Sparks, knocked it out of the park on the national anthem.

▪  Olsen had an eventful game. He made a difficult catch in the rain for a 27-yard touchdown, and that throw seemed to get Newton going. Newton at one point was 1-for-9 for 13 yards and later had the costly fumble from the 1, but he later came back with second-half TD throws to Olsen and then to Philly Brown. Olsen had two bad penalties, though, each taking away a Carolina first down. Once he was called for blocking downfield on a route and the second for offensive holding to nullify what would have been a first-down run for the Panthers.

▪  Carolina's defense totally flummoxed Luck for most of the evening. Luck couldn't get the Colts into the end zone until 7:04 remained in the game, and by then Carolina was ahead, 23-6. Safety Kurt Coleman -- who had an interception and stopped two third-and-short run plays -- was a particular standout. But then Luck came roaring back, as Indianapolis scored 20 of its 26 points in the final 7:04 of regulation and in overtime.

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