The Carolina Panthers welcomed the Indianapolis Colts to Charlotte for a primetime matchup on Monday Night Football. The weather posed some issues for both teams as there were seven turnovers and a missed extra point from Panther kicker Graham Gano that allowed the Colts to force the game into overtime. Gano redeemed himself in OT by hitting the game winning fifty-two yard field goal which propelled the Panthers to 7-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Gano gave the Panthers (7-0) an early lead with a field goal that followed an Indianapolis turnover on their second snap. Both teams were playing with backup centers and the center to quarterback exchange had an adverse effect on both teams.
On the ensuing Colts (3-5) possession, Charles Tillman picked off Andrew Luck to give the Panthers the ball again. The drive would require conversions on third and long and two fourth down conversions but it ended in seven points behind a three yard touchdown run from Johnathon Stewart, giving the Panthers a 10-0 advantage.
Colts kicker, Adam Vinatieri, chipped in two field goals to cut the lead to 10-6, but Cam Newton and the Panthers would respond. After a solid punt return by Ted Ginn Jr. gave the Panthers the ball in solid field position, Newton found his favorite target Greg Olsen in the end zone for the touchdown and the 17-6 lead.
Kurt Coleman intercepted Luck to give the Panthers the ball again in the fourth quarter. Three plays later, Newton found Philly Brown for a touchdown. Gano missed the extra point to keep the lead at 23-6.
Luck led the Colts on two touchdown drives late to cut the lead to 23-20. The first touchdown was to Andre Johnson and the second to tight end Coby Fleener. The Colts would then get the ball back on their own 40 with two minutes and no timeouts. They would drive all the way down to the four yard line before the Panthers defense would force a field goal which tied the game and sent it to overtime.
In overtime, Vinatieri knocked down a fifty yard field goal on the Colts first possession to give them a 26-23 lead, their first of the night. Gano would respond with a forty-two yarder of his own to tie the game back up. On the Colts next possession, Luck threw a pass over the middle of the field which was tipped by Roman Harper and picked off by Luke Kuechly. Newton and the offense were not able to move the ball much on their possession but they were able to get in range for Gano. He lined up from fifty-two yards out and buried it home to give the Panthers the huge 29-26 win.
The game was sloppy on both sides, but the resilient Panthers found a way to win yet again and are the only remaining undefeated team in the NFC.
“It wasn’t pretty. We know that,” said Newton after the game. “We know have to be better, but at the end of the day we’re one of the lucky few who can say we’re 7-0.”
“That’s who we are. That’s what we’ve been building toward,” Olsen said. “We didn’t play great. We’re not going to throw a parade, but we beat a good team that gave us their best shot in adverse conditions.”
The Panthers will remain in Charlotte next week as they welcome the Green Bay Packers for another huge matchup. The Packers are coming off their first loss of the year and will be looking to rebound. The Panthers defense will have to shut down Aaron Rodgers and the dynamic offense of the Packers to make it to 8-0. The game is this Sunday at 1 p.m. in Bank of America Stadium.