After going five undefeated straight weeks this season since they beat the Vikings 35-10 in week six, the Carolina Panthers (6-3) faced off against the New England Patriots (7-2) at home tonight and managed to keep up the winning streak. The Patriots, who have only taken two hits this season, couldn’t close in on the win tonight, losing to the Panthers 24-20.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faced quite a lot of pressure tonight to outperform Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who is twelve years his junior. The Patriots had their work cut out for them against the Panthers’ famously solid defense; a defense that has been ranked first in the league.
Neither team managed to make significant progress until halfway through the first quarter, when Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith caught a 42-yard pass from Newton, making it the first significant play leading up to their first touchdown delivered by wide receiver Brandon Lafell with two minutes left in the quarter. Tempers ran high as wide receivers Steve Smith and Aqib Talib continuously attacked each other on the field, which initially began when Talib grabbed onto Smith’s leg and refused to let go.
The second quarter started off flatly with no scoring or significant yard advancement until Brady threw an incomplete pass to tight end Rob Grongkowski and a five-yard penalty was called on the Panthers. Brady threw another incomplete pass to Amendola and shortly after the ball was turned over to the Panthers through a fumble by running back Stevan Ridley and a recovery by defensive end Mario Addison. This was Ridley’s eighth fumble this season.
After the turnover, Newton threw an incomplete pass toward wide receiver Ted Ginn, who was in the endzone. Instead of continuing to run the ball, the Panthers settled for a 43-yard field goal, which was completed, putting the Panthers at a 10-o lead as the offense turns over to New England.
The Patriots began to make a comeback toward the end of the second quarter where Brady threw a complete pass to Vereen for a 17-yard advance. The Patriots were subsequently penalized with a 15-yard retreat at second and 25. New England managed to get down the field, but decided to go for a field goal at fourth and 8 instead of try for first down. The 42-yard kick was completed by Stephan Gostkowski, making the score 10-3 as the first half of the game finally came to an end.
As the second half began, Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson was injured and taken off the field during a New England 12-yard advancement. Minutes later, Brady threw an incomplete pass to wide receiver Aaron Dobsen in the endzone, but the Panthers received a 5-yard penalty and the Patriots received first down. Immediately after, Patriots tight end Mathew Mulligan caught a short left pass from Brady and scored a 9-yard touchdown, finally tying the game 10-10 with plenty of time left in the third quarter.
Instead of passing the ball to a teammate, Newton chose to run the ball himself after Carolina got the ball and advanced the Panthers 14 yards. Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington was injured during the play and was lifted off the field. Newton later threw a short pass to Carolina tight end Greg Olsen, who scored the Panthers’ second touchdown. The kick was good, and the Panthers took the lead again 17-10.
The Patriots made another comeback with a monumental play in the start of the fourth quarter. Tom Brady passed a short right to wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who ran 37 yards down the field, bringing New England to first and goal and giving Ridley the opening to score a touchdown seconds later, tying the score once again.
New England made it down toward Carolina’s endzone again, but chose to go for a field goal at fourth and 1 instead of attempting to run the ball. The ball sailed through the goal posts, missing the left post by mere inches, leaving the Patriots finally ahead by 3.
With two minutes left on the clock, the Panthers gained possession of the ball and scored. Ginn caught a pass from Newton and ran right into the endzone with no real opposition, giving the Panthers the game.
The Patriots will play the Denver Broncos at home in Massachussetts next Sunday. Head Coach Ron Rivera will take the Panthers will take his team to Florida to play the Dolphins next Sunday as well.
By: Hend Salah