Julius Peppers was one of the best players in Carolina history. He made the Pro Bowl five times in his eight seasons with Carolina (from 2002-09), and he still leads the team in total sacks.
But Peppers was rarely beloved in Carolina, and part of the reason was that he didn’t give much of himself. He showed little emotion and he sometimes seemed to take plays off, although sometimes that was because he played so fluidly.
All that is to say that what Peppers did Sunday was unusual. After Cam Newton scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak for Carolina’s first touchdown, Peppers somehow wound up holding the ball. Newton came to ask for it in the end zone so he could give it to a Panthers fan, as is his practice.
But Peppers wouldn’t give it to him, instead purposely holding it away. Then Peppers flipped the ball in the other direction.
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Newton, obviously irritated, ran to retrieve the ball from a ballboy and gave it away anyway.
The ironic thing is that although Panthers fans booed Peppers at every opportunity Sunday, they would have loved to have seen some of that kind of emotion when he played in Charlotte.
▪ I thought of Steve Beuerlein’s “The Draw” play that once beat Green Bay in Lambeau several times on Sunday. This game wasn’t quite that dramatic as that one in 1999, but the stakes were much higher.
▪ Cornerback Josh Norman has cooled down a little after his incredible start to the season. If Norman had made a better play on a fourth-down jump ball that turned into a 36-yard gain for Green Bay in the fourth quarter, this game would have been over sooner.
▪ The Panthers now have a massive three-game lead on Atlanta in the loss column in the NFC South, so it’s going to be hard not to win the division now. The Falcons (6-3) took a bad loss to San Francisco Sunday.
▪ Hard to believe that Newton wasn’t sacked Sunday, but he never was. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, went down five times.
▪ The best thing you can say about these Panthers is they keep winning even “in spite of themselves,” as coach Ron Rivera said. Newton accounted for four touchdowns Sunday but overthrew two other receivers who could have scored and had a bad interception. The Panthers’ defense let Rodgers throw for 369 yards and four touchdowns. And still, Carolina won.