Entering Sunday, most conversations about the best NFL teams didn’t include the Panthers despite their unblemished 4-0 record. But maybe that will change after Cam Newton engineered two 80-yard, fourth-quarter drives in the final minutes to overcome a nine-point deficit.
Prior to Sunday, most conversations about the best NFL teams didn’t include the Carolina Panthers despite their unblemished record at the quarter pole of the season.
Fans and pundits would sooner pay homage to New England, Green Bay, Denver and Cincinnati — the other unbeaten teams — before including the Panthers among the league’s elite squads.
But maybe that will change after Cam Newton engineered two 80-yard, fourth-quarter drives in the final minutes to overcome a nine-point deficit and lead Carolina to a shocking 27-23 comeback win against the Seahawks in front of a record of crowd 69,020 at CenturyLink Field.
Seahawks at a loss
Carolina’s victory in Seattle on Sunday ended the Seahawks’ four-game win streak over the Panthers:
27-23 at Seattle
Jan. 10, 2015
31-17 at Seattle*
Oct. 26, 2014
13-9 at Charlotte
Sept. 8, 2013
12-7 at Charlotte
Oct. 7. 2012
16-12 at Charlotte
* NFC Divisional playoff game
“This is one of the bigger victories that we have had since I have been here,” said fifth-year coach Ron Rivera, who was 0-4 against the Seahawks with the Panthers. “The thing I liked today was the resiliency.
SEAHAWKS vs. PANTHERS »
“I told Cam just take it one at a time. Let’s get one score at a time. Let’s not press it.”
It was an amazing turnaround for Newton, who was mostly miserable through 3½ quarters against a Seahawks defense that sacked him three times and collected two interceptions.
“We just had to keep fighting,” said Newton who completed just 8 of 21 attempts entering the fourth quarter. “Staying resilient, keep pushing and keep holding ourselves accountable.”
Down 23-14 with less than nine minutes remaining, something clicked in a major way for Newton and the Panthers against a Seattle team that surrendered a fourth-quarter lead a week ago during an overtime loss at Cincinnati.
Newton, who completed 12 of 15 passes for 162 yards in the fourth quarter, suddenly had time in the pocket to find receivers in the Seahawks secondary — most notably tight end Greg Olsen.
“It was great to see Captain America back out there,” Newton said of Olsen, who finished with seven receptions for 131 yards —both team highs.
With 4:21 remaining, they connected on a 32-yard reception that gave Carolina the ball at the 1. On the next play, Jonathan Smith, the former Timberline High standout, plunged into the end zone for his second 1-yard scoring run.
After forcing the Seahawks to punt, the Panthers got the ball one last time. Down 23-20 at their 20 with 2:20 left, Newton saved his best for the final moments.
He had passes of 8, 18 and 14 yards as Carolina marched to the Seahawks 40 before taking a 9-yard loss on a sack. Then Newton completed throws that covered 16 and 7 yards to get to Seattle’s 26.
That’s when communication broke down between the Panthers sideline and the Carolina players on the field.
“It was a little chaotic,” Olsen said. “We were trying to get the right personnel group to get that play called.
“At some point Cam just yelled it out and everyone ran to the line. We didn’t make any points. We didn’t call out any Mikes. We just snapped it and ran the play and see what happened.”
Olsen lined up to the right and ran a post route between cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas and caught a 26-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone.
“It was the same play we ran the drive before when I got tackled at the 1,” Olsen said. “Exact same formation and exact same play.”
Said Newton: “It was Greg being Greg. I don’t want to make this about me. It was a great team win.”
It was also the type of performance that could change the perception of a team that had been called the worst of the unbeatens.
“I don’t know,” said Newton who finished with 269 yards on 20-for-36 passing. “It’s not really about them (critics). It’s really about us (and) how we execute. If we play games like this — how we played the latter part –—it would be hard to beat us.”
|Carolina QB Newton threw two interceptions and rushed for fewer yards, but their total yardage was similiar:|