Substance over style for Carolina Panthers side clawing to top of NFC

Jay Asser 22:38 03/11/2015
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Wham bam thank you Cam: Panthers quarterback Newton.

The Carolina Panthers haven’t made their flawless mark look easy, but they exit Week 8 of the season as one of four undefeated teams nonetheless.

This is the first time in league history that three or more teams have reached a 7-0 record, with Carolina’s 29-26 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts making it four.

Despite entering the match-up with the previously 3-4 Colts having won 10 straight regular season games, the Panthers needed every last second to hold on for victory after blowing multiple opportunities to finish off the visitors.

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Kicker Graham Gano missed an extra point in the fourth quarter to keep Indianapolis within a field goal, while All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly dropped a potential interception in the end zone with two seconds remaining, allowing Adam Vinatieri to kick a 24-yarder to send the game in overtime.

Following another Vinatieri field goal to put the Colts up by three, Carolina wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr dropped a 56-yard pass that would have likely gone for a touchdown to give the Panthers a walk-off win.

From there on, however, Carolina would make the necessary plays, including Gano’s 42-yarder to tie the game, Kuechly’s interception on the next drive to steal back possession and the game-winner by Gano from 52 yards out.

“It wasn’t pretty. We know that,” Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said. “We know we have to be better, but at the end of the day we’re one of the lucky few who can say we’re 7-0.”

Pretty hasn’t been an appropriate adjective to describe Carolina’s season up to this point, but a lack of style points hasn’t kept them from joining the New England Patriots, the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos with an unbeaten record.

“That’s not what we do,” Kuechly said. “We just find a way to win at the end of the game, and that’s what makes it fun here is we keep it 
exciting. You never know what to expect.”

Tight end Greg Olsen added: “That’s who we are. That’s what we’ve been building toward. We didn’t play great. We’re not going to throw a parade, but we beat a good team that gave us their best shot in adverse conditions.”

Of the four 7-0 teams, Carolina allow the most points per game at 19.4, ranking 10th in the league, but they’ve come up with key turnovers with their 16 total takeaways (interceptions and fumbles) falling just short of Denver’s 17 – tied for second-most.

The Panthers now have a two-game advantage in the loss column over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South, while being frontrunners to capture home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

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