Panther fans are used to close games. Games where their team jumps out to double-digit first-half leads, only for things to get interesting at the end when the opposing team launches a comeback. Carolina fans are built to withstand the nervousness and anxiety that comes with being a Cardiac Cat supporter. What Panthers fans aren’t used to, is being on the receiving end of those incredible comebacks. They are not used to being the team that claws their way back from the brink of defeat to win a game that seemed out of reach. But that’s exactly what happened when the Panthers stunned the reigning Super Champion Philadelphia Eagles 21-17 – notching their first win this season away from Bank of America stadium.
The half of football was dismal. The Panthers struggled with moving the chains on third down – punting on their first five offensive possessions – and when they did get in a position to put points the board, they negated those opportunities with penalties. Things weren’t much better on the defensive end. Carson Wentz seemed to move the ball up and down the field with ease; exploiting a mismatch between James Bradberry and Alshon Jeffrey and connecting with ease to tight end Zach Ertz .
“It was a tale of two halves,” Coach Ron Rivera said after the win. “They came out and played very well in the first half and we made some mistakes. Unfortunately we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had.”
“We were against the ropes to a degree,” Cam Newton told reporters. “We didn’t have a good performance in the first half and we know that can’t happen, especially versus a good team like this.”
Everyone thought it was over. Historically, the Panthers are not a team known for winning 17-0 deficits in the 4th quarter. Then something clicked. Maybe it was Eagles players dancing before a 4th quarter kick-off as if there wasn’t any football left. Maybe the urgency of needing to get their first win on the road to keep pace with the division-leading New Orleans Saints hit them, but something happened in the second half, and more specifically 4th quarter. The Panthers’ defense came alive and the offense, led by the impressive play and leadership of Cam Newton, was scoring points on every possession instead of punting.
“I really like the way the offensive line held together and protected the quarterback – giving him time,” Rivera noted. “We ran it effectively. I think Cam made some really good decisions and delivered some really good balls.”
“I took last week’s loss personal,” Cam said when talking about his 4th quarter comeback. “There were so many things against us, but we had an opportunity to win. I told myself preparing all week that if I’m in that position again I better hold up my end of the bargain. There are a lot of guys who trust in me in that locker room. A lot of people who are depending on me to put this team in the best situation and I could’ve been better last week. This week we were in the same situation and I didn’t want to let nobody down.”
The Panthers 4th quarter comeback marked the largest in franchise history. This is the type hard-fought win that could be season defining and the Panthers and Cam Newton know it.
“Moving forward this is a confidence booster for us – something that can accelerate production offensively, defensively and on special teams.”