All the experts picked the Patriots. Vegas had them favored by nine points. Nobody was giving the Panthers a chance to win. Fortunately football games are still played on grass, not paper.
Carolina pulled off a big upset in New England today, winning by a score of 33-30. Here’s how they did in each phase of the game.
For a moment there it looked like Cam Newton was going to have another rough game. He threw a bad pick into double coverage intended for Damiere Byrd. However, he turned it around after that play. Newton went on his first real tear of the season and finished the game with 316 yards and three passing touchdowns. He also added 44 yards and another score on the ground.
Jonathan Stewart fumbled to end a very promising drive in the second half but aside from that he was solid, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
The real star was wide receiver Devin Funchess, who posted 70 yards and two touchdowns plus a crucial third down conversion late in the game.
Most impressively, the Panthers offensive line did a pretty fantastic job of protecting Newton and setting up running lanes. Newton was only sacked twice in the game. An all around superb performance for the unit.
One of our keys to the game was pressuring Tom Brady, and Carolina got plenty of that. In the end Brady was sacked three times and hit seven. Julius Peppers was most disruptive, finishing the day with two sacks and four tackles. Kawann Short and Kyle Love also landed multiple hits on Brady.
The pass rush dropped off in the fourth quarter and helped get New England back in the game. They were just good enough, though.
Carolina had some trouble against the run but in the end they held the Patriots to a respectable 4.2 yards per carry and one touchdown. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was busy as usual, picking up 14 combined tackles to lead the team.
Graham Gano’s perfect streak finally ended as he missed an extra point attempt, however he definitely made up for it by connecting on the game-winning 48 yard field goal as time expired.
The Panthers also got a strong special teams performance from Christian McCaffrey, who totaled 83 yards on five punt and kick returns.
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