The feeling outside Bank of America Stadium before Carolina’s 24-20 win over New England on Monday night was incredibly amped up. Scalpers were everywhere. Fans were everywhere. Food was everywhere. The spotlights illuminating the nighttime sky were a nice touch.
It’s been a long time since it has felt that way before a Panthers game in Charlotte – the playoff game following the 2008 season against Arizona, to be exact.
But this one had exactly the opposite effect on Panthers fans. They trudged out after that Arizona playoff game and floated out after this one, as Cam Newton’s three touchdown passes and the defense’s final stand (along with a controversial no-call) gave the Panthers their sixth straight win.
• The “blackout” the Panthers requested from their fans was a major success – probably 70 percent of the sellout crowd was dressed partially or all in black. The team itself was partially clad in black, with black jerseys and silver pants.
• Wind was more of a factor than many anticipated – on kickoffs, the teams sometimes had to use a holder – and fans who brought jackets after a sunshiny day in the 70s were glad they did.
• The Panthers again didn’t give up a first-quarter touchdown. They haven’t allowed one in the first 15 minutes all season. But they allowed New England to score on four straight possessions in one stretch after Tom Brady completed 13 passes in a row at one point. Still, the Panthers’ defense did well enough that they finished the night as the No.1 scoring defense in the NFL, barely edging in front of Kansas City.
• Wide receiver Steve Smith and Aqib Talib have a long – and nasty – history. Smith and Talib got into scuffles fairly frequently when Talib was at Tampa Bay, and it happened twice early in this game. Talib wouldn’t let Smith’s leg go after one third-down conversion, causing Smith to jump on him and Talib to get a 15-yard penalty.
• The Panthers got big plays from their first two picks of the 2013 draft early in the game. First-round pick Star Lotulelei had a sack of Tom Brady and second-round pick Kawann Short caused a key fumble on running back Stevan Ridley that the Panthers recovered in the red zone at their own 13, ending New England’s first real scoring opportunity. Ridley was then pulled out of the game by angry New England coach Bill Belichick, but did get inserted later in the contest.
• It was a game with very few possessions compared to most NFL games. Frequently, teams get about 11-12 per game. This time, each team had only seven, as clock-eating drives were the order of the evening.