The Carolina Panthers made a major statement to the teams in the National Football League on Monday night with their 29-26 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The win proved that Carolina is every bit deserving of a 7-0 record and are not a team to take lightly.
In the pouring rain, Carolina struck first via the kicking game, which was manned by Graham Gano. The 28-year-old cashed in on a 39-yard field goal to put his team up by three with 13:45 minutes left in the first.
About six minutes later, the Panthers (7-0) found themselves on the scoreboard again. Jonathan Stewart took a three-yard carry to the house to make it 10-0 lead.
Stewart had 24 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown in the overtime win over the Colts. The rain played a factor in his performance, but he pushed through and became a key performer for Carolina.
The Colts (3-5) found the board for the first time as Adam Vinatieri easily scored on a 47-yard field goal with 10:27 to play in the half.
Cam Newton, the quarterback for the Panthers, handed the ball off to Stewart with his team winning, 10-3. With the rain playing a factor and some miscommunication, the running back fumbled the ball, which was jumped on by Bjoern Werner. Earlier in the game, Colts center Jonotthan Harrison lost a fumble, which was recovered by Roman Harper of the Panthers.
Despite the fumble, the Panthers provided great defense down field by the Panthers forced a fourth-and-four, which kept Indianapolis out of the end zone, but gave Vinatieri a 34-yard field goal opportunity. The kick was perfectly down the middle to pull the Colts within four, 10-6.
Luke Keuchly provided that defense all night long. He made 14 tackles and one for a loss. He way a key part in keeping the Colts out of the end zone throughout overtime.
On the ensuing drive for Carolina, Newton tossed a deep bomb, but it resulted in the fourth turnover of the game between the two teams as the ball was intercepted by Vontae Davis. Newton, a 26-year-old, had trouble getting a grip on the ball all night.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck had the same problem as Newton because of the rain. Luck threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns, while Newton threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns. Both quarterbacks carried the ball for over 35 yards, with Newton having 41 rushing yards. Luck and Newton both turned the ball over twice. Luck now has a 12 interceptions on the season, which is an NFL-high.
"It's my problem, and it's hurting the team," Luck said. "I've got to fix it. It's tough to win like that, and I'm disappointed in myself. Mentally, I feel all right. It's tough to overcome in the game. The points, the short field position, that's the important thing."
This season, the Colts are 1-5 with Luck as their quarterback, but 2-0 with Matt Hasselbeck. Next week, Luck will look for his 100th career passing touchdown.
Newton found Ted Ginn Jr. down field for a 48-yard gain, but the Panthers could not score with a field goal or touchdown. The drive looked promising, but after the big gain, it fell off the tracks. The first half ended with the Panthers leading the Colts, 10-6.
With 2:23 left in the third quarter, Newton fumbled the ball on the goal line, which was a costly mistake. The fumbled was recovered by Billy Winn, a defensive tackle.
After a good defensive stop and a beautiful punt return, the Panthers were back at it on the offensive end. This time, they capitalized as Newton found tight end Greg Olsen for a 27-yard touchdown to make it a 17-6 lead with just 17 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Olsen led the team with six receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown, while Ginn Jr. tallied two receptions for 60 yards.
The fourth quarter was active for both sides. Carolina scored once again, this time an eight-yard score from Newton to Corey Brown.
As for the the Colts, they were active through reciever Andre Johnson was found wide open for an 18-yard score to make it a 23-13 deficit for Indianapolis.
Johnson led the team with 81 receiving yards on four receptions from Luck. Running back Frank Gore carried the ball 22 times for 70 yards, but could not find the end zone in the overtime loss.
The Colts pulled within three points on a eight-yard score between Netwon and Coby Fleener. With two seconds left in regulation, Vinatieri cashed in on a 24-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, the Colts and Panthers traded a 50-yard field goal and a 42-yard field goal to keep things knotted, 26-26. Gano hit a 52-yard field goal with 5:22 left in overtime to win the game for Carolina.
"I had the ball back a yard from where it was supposed to go," Gano said of the setup. "I looked up and saw [long snapper] J.J. [Jansen]waving at me as he was waiting to snap the ball. I thought, 'Oh, we've got to scoot it up!' I looked up, and the play clock was at 10."
Gano made the field goal and the incorrect placement did not matter as he sent the Panthers to yet another victory, this time a 29-26 overtime win.
The win gives the Panthers an 11 game winning streak, which is the longest active streak in the National Football League. At 7-0, Carolina is one-of-four teams to start perfect through seven games. The seven wins match their win total from last season. The Colts have dropped to 3-5 on the season.
"It's a long season, and our goals are still attainable," Luck said. "It doesn't make this loss any easier to swallow. We keep grinding, pick our heads up and get back to work. We've got to fix these things in practice and fix these things in games."