The NFL provided a ton of great games this weekend. But what may have been the best was the Monday night showdown between the Patriots and the Panthers.
The Panthers, who beat the 49ers in a 10-9 defensive stalemate last weekend, proved with their 24-20 win on Monday that they can also slug it out on offense with one of the best quarterbacks in the game. The game ended in a controversial no-call that would be a hotly debated topic immediately after the game, but this was 60-minutes of great football.
While the first half of this game may not have gotten many people out of their seats, the second half would be a half that Carolina fans won’t soon forget for their first time hosting Monday Night Football. After half, the Panthers were up 10-3, but Tom Brady would hit Rob Gronkowski on a 9-yard touchdown pass just a few minutes into the half. The Panthers would then strike back before the end of the quarter, going up 17-10. The Patriots came out in the fourth quarter and looked like they would be able to seal the deal after tying and then pulling ahead, 20-17. But when Cam Newton hit Ted Ginn Jr. on a 25-yard pass with just under a minute left, the ball was in Tom Brady’s hands for one last drive.
Memories of Super Bowl XXXVIII probably started springing up in the minds of Panthers fans. It was that year when Jake Delhomme was able to score with just a few minutes left, until Tom Brady was able to come back and put the Patriots into field goal range, which Adam Vinatieri would seal another Super Bowl win for the Patriots. However, this year, the Patriots would not be so lucky.
From the 18-yard line, Tom Brady would try and hit Rob Gronkowski for the winner. However the ball would end up in the hands of the Carolina defenseman as time expired. While many Carolina fans cheered in excitement, a sudden pause of silence went across the stadium as it was noticed that a flag had been thrown on the play.
When it looked like the Patriots would get another chance to win the game, due to a hold on Gronk in the end zone, the referees would then say that they were picking up the flag and that the game was over. As Panthers fans went wild with excitement, many people around the NFL were shock with how this one ended, and with the fact that the Panthers were able to beat two of the best teams in the NFL in as many weeks.
Now, at 7-3, the Panthers are among the top teams in the NFC. They also have substantial wins over top teams and have shown they can win with both offensive and defensive efforts. The Panthers have no time to rest. Though they’ll play Miami next weekend and Tampa the following, wins in both games are necessary in order to make the December 8 showdown with the Saints even more interesting. Both of those teams are at the top of the NFC South and that game could have substantial impacts on the playoff picture. But before that can happen, the Panthers have to keep winning.
As for the Patriots, things won’t get much easier. Next weekend they’ll face the Broncos in prime time as well. And as the Broncos have now become the top team in the AFC after beating the Chiefs this weekend, you can bet they won’t want any hiccups against a top team like the Patriots.