Bob Halloran Recalls Patriots’ Nail Biters vs. Panthers

Since 2003, the Carolina Panthers have defeated the New England Patriots in three of their five matchups (including the postseason).

Three of those contests were won in the final seconds, with all three being won by four points or less. WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston Sports Anchor/Reporter Bob Halloran ranked his three most memorable nail-biting contests between the two teams and how he reacted to each game’s memorable finish ahead of today’s matchup.

#3: 2017 Week 4 at New England

New England started their defense of their Super Bowl 51 title, by surrendering 95 points in the first three weeks posting a 2-1 record in that time span. They would fall behind 30-16 early in the fourth quarter before Tom Brady led back-to-back touchdown drives on their final two possessions leaving just over three minutes on the clock. The game was tied 30-30.

Unfortunately, Tom Brady would never see the ball again, as Cam Newton led the Panthers on a 10 play, 46-yard drive into Graham Gano’s field goal range. Gano nailed a 48-yard field goal as time expired to complete Carolina’s 33-30 victory in Foxboro. Newton finished with 360 total yards and four touchdowns (one rushing). Receivers Devin Funchess and Calvin Benjamin finished with 11 receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’d say the offense was equally to blame for getting the Patriots into a 14-point hole,” said Halloran. “They were able to climb out of it with a touchdown, followed by a Panther three-and-out possession, and then another touchdown by the Patriots tied the game at 30-30 with 3:09 to go. That’s plenty of time for any NFL team to move the ball into field goal range. The Panthers did convert two third downs on their final drive, so the Patriots had their chances to stop them, but failed.”

New England’s defense would allow 20 or more points just twice in during the rest of the regular season and would defeat the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars at home in the playoffs before facing the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 52. They would surrender 538 yards of offense against backup quarterback Nick Foles, losing 41-33 in the process.

#2:  2013 Week 11 at Carolina

The play that stands out from this contest is the non-call on the pass interference against tight end Rob Gronkowski in the end zone as time expired. As the announcers pointed out, there was a lot of contact with Gronkowski by middle linebacker Luke Kuechly in the end zone and a flag was originally thrown, making it appear as if a pass interference penalty would be enforced. Unfortunately, it was picked up and the game was over. Instead of getting a free play at the one-yard line, safety Robert Lester’s interception stood as called.

“The ball was obviously in the air, and Kuechly bearhugged Gronk to keep him from stopping and going to get the ball,” said Halloran. “A better throw would have made it a more obvious call because I think the refs could make the case that it wasn’t a catchable ball, but I don’t agree with that assessment.” 

This was Cam Newton’s first matchup against Tom Brady and he led the Panthers on a 13 play, 83-yard drive, before firing a 25-yard touchdown to Ted Ginn Jr. with 59 seconds left in the game. He finished the contest with 271 total yards and three touchdowns. Tom Brady threw for 296 yards but finished with just one touchdown and an interception.

The Patriots would win six of their last seven games, before falling to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship.

#1: Super Bowl 38

“If I’m ranking these games, the Super Bowl has to be number one simply because it’s the Super Bowl,” said Halloran. “It’s striking that a guy like Jake Delhomme, with an otherwise uneventful career, could go toe to toe with Tom Brady and hold his own pretty well.”

The game began with the first 10 possessions ending with a combined nine punts, a fumble, missed field goal, and a blocked field goal. The Patriots scored touchdowns on the final two possessions and held a 14-10 lead at halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter on both sides, the fourth quarter would turn into a shootout that featured a combined 37 points in six drives. Antowain Smith, DeShaun Foster, Muhsin Muhammad, Mike Vrabel, and Ricky Proehl all scored touchdowns knotting the game at 29 apiece with 1:08 left on the clock. However, this was not Tom Brady’s first time leading a game-winning drive in the Super Bowl.

In Super Bowl 36, he led a nine-play, 53-yard drive to set up kicker Adam Vinatieri for a 48-yard game-winning kick to earn the franchise’s first Super Bowl as time expired. Against the Panthers, he only needed to go a distance of 37 yards on six plays, thanks to a kickoff out of bounds by Panthers’ kicker John Kasay. 

Brady’s longest play of the drive set up was a 17-yard strike to receiver Deion Branch that set up Vinatieri for a 41-yard kick. After having two missed kicks earlier, with one sailing wide right and the other being blocked, Vinatieri split the uprights right down the middle on his final kick to hand his team a 32-29 victory.

Tom Brady earned his second Super Bowl MVP honors finishing a then Super Bowl record 32 completions for 354 yards and three touchdowns. Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme finished with 323 yards and three touchdowns. 

Delhomme would finish his 11-year career with a 56-40 record, 126 touchdowns, and 101 interceptions. Conversely, Tom Brady enters week nine of this season with a 236-71 record, 606 touchdowns, and 196 interceptions on route to winning a record-setting seven Super Bowls and five Super Bowl MVPs.

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