The Panthers needed some kicker heroics after mismanaging the final moments of their game against the Giants so poorly that they needed Graham Gano to hit a 63-yard game winner. Thankfully for Carolina he was up to the task.
Down by one point with just over a minute on the clock, the Panthers needed a solid drive to put themselves in range to win. However, after moving the chains close to midfield everything started to go wrong, and the team atrociously botched their attempts to make it an easy kick.
Here’s how it went down:
Newton completed a 20 yard strike to D.J. Moore which moved the chains with 1:01 left on the clock. With one timeout, Carolina was forced to hold onto it and it took almost 20 seconds to complete their next play — a sideline pass targeted at Devin Funchess, who slipped on the turf and injured himself.
This moment was critical, as Funchess hopped off the field on one leg to try to preserve the Panthers’ timeout and allow them to keep driving. Had he stayed down officials would have taken the timeout, putting it all on he passing game — which had struggled for much of the day.
With 0:35 left, the Panthers called a quick passing play to Christian McCaffrey who wasn’t anywhere near the sideline. This would have been okay, except the Panthers were at their own 47 yard line, well outside of what would have been reasonable field goal distance. It forced the team to burn the timeout, and at 3rd-and-1 the offense made the most questionable decision of the day.
Instead of trying to pass or force the ball out of bounds, offensive coordinator Norv Turner called for a run up the gut by McCaffrey — who managed to pick up the first down, but without any time outs the Giants were able to keep him down and take 18 seconds off the clock. To compound matters, the TV line was far off the official line, which led to fans being confused about whether he’d crossed the plane or not. Matters were made worse by FOX not updating their down and distance marker, which made it appear like Cam Newton was spiking the ball on 4th-and-1, when in reality it was 1st and 10.
The play calling decisions by Carolina in the final minute were atrocious, which led to needing Gano to make a 63-yard field goal when his career long was 59. Keep in mind, Gano has been in the league since 2009 — so the veteran kicker, despite having a big leg, had never completed a kick this long.
In the end the best decision the Panthers made was taking the ball out of the offense’s hands and hoping their special teams could get the job done. Gano is now tied for the 2nd longest field goal of all time, and didn’t kick it at altitude. Based on the final drive they had no business beating the Giants, but here we are.
Honestly, we all should have seen this coming.