Where did that come from?
The Carolina Panthers stunned the Atlanta Falcons 30-20 Sunday in Charlotte, winning a grudge match against their Interstate 85 rival and demonstrating to the NFL what might have been in a lost season.
This shows exactly what we are capable of, said coach Ron Rivera, whose team improved to 4-9. Thats the sad part.
The Panthers best game of the year began in a drizzle and ended in brilliant sunshine, as the 50,000 or so fans who showed up were rewarded in numerous ways.
The afternoon started with a good omen. The Panthers won a coin toss for the first time in 14 tries this season, generating a huge roar from the stands.
The Panthers chose to receive, quarterback Cam Newton led a touchdown drive and the Panthers were off and running. They never really stopped, leading by at least 10 points for the final 40 minutes and paying the Falcons back for a last-second loss in September.
Newton was nearly perfect. He didnt make a turnover for the fourth straight game. He threw for 287 yards and ran for 116 more including a remarkable 72-yard touchdown run in which he did a front flip into the end zone after a block from Steve Smith that took out three Atlanta defenders like bowling pins.
Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy had said before the game that despite the teams records, Carolina was better than Atlanta. After the game, Hardy was overheard by a TV cameraman telling the Falcons to get the (expletive) off our field mimicking Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryans words back in September.
The Falcons (11-2) are still headed to the playoffs. Carolina by virtue of clunkers like its loss to a one-win Kansas City team only a week ago is going nowhere. Riveras job status beyond December is still very much in question.
But for one Sunday, all was right in the Panthers world.
Scott Fowler: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Scott_Fowler