Nothing can make a victory more sweet than a home win including walking
off with Tom Brady whining to a ref.
I don't know what to make of the call. Honestly, in a bubble, I'd say
it's the best possible outcome that the flag was thrown but picked up -
a no-call is, in my mind, more controversial. They had an opportunity
to judge it, did, and chose not to call it.
That's not how a lot are judging it, however. And the lack of
explanation doesn't help. To me, I see two sides - Gronkowski was not
heading where that ball was going, he continued upfield no matter what
Luke Kuechly does. The ball is way underthrown. I heard the arguments
that the INT happens where the 'foul' supposedly starts, and that's
true. Is it relevant? Gronkowski at no point attempts to post up, he
doesn't stop. Kuechly's better play might've been to ride him out of
bounds, or who knows if that's what he attempted to do. But
Gronkowski's intent was never to catch the ball 4 yards in, where Robert
Lester cut inside. He would've had to come back for that ball anyway.
I don't know if that makes it uncatchable or not. If Kuechly does or
doesn't hold, he'd still have had position. And game on the line or
not, Brady would've needed a better throw and probably couldn't have
hurt to have hit a guy that wasn't double covered.
So unsurprisingly for a Carolina fan, I'm unimpressed by the outrage.
And it's not the same thing, but after Marcus Cannon whipped Charles
Johnson, which gave him a sprained MCL and rendered him (and for a
while, the Carolina defense) useless for the rest of the game, but they
didn't call it? Allright. I'll take that trade. The thing is, one
had to do with player safety. I don't know that the league really cares
about player safety; they don't protect RBs. They protect the head, and
fair enough, but it's for litigation purposes.
So, before there was a final play, a pretty good ballgame came about.
It was a low scoring half, one that Carolina tenatively controlled.
Carolina's defense didn't dominate early, but came up with some big
plays when it needed. The Pats appeared to be rolling, thanks to a lot
of early referee action, picking up third downs by officiating, when
Kawann Short picked up a forced fumble on Stevan Ridley. The Pats
mustered only a field goal before the half - they answered with a TD
coming out of halftime, however.
At that point, it started to become a shoot-out - as much as you can be
in ball control offenses. Carolina continued to work the run and
started to make upfield plays; Brady worked to get the quick pass out
and the Pats started running the ball surprisingly effectively (with no
small key being the dirty play I saw from each between Cannon, Logan
Mankins, and Dan Connolly). Brady and Cam Newton combined for 18
straight completions. It wasn't a quick shoot out, but Carolina
somehow matched. When the defense started to falter, the offense
picked up the slack.
Newton had no small part in that, either. 3 TD, zero interceptions.
And he led the team in rushing, and not on called runs (there were two,
I believe, and they didn't provide any real plays; there was minimal
yardage for Newton in the rare event he didn't hand off on the read
option). He made it happen on scrambles, which remain his deadliest
play. Having become a nearly deadly 3rd down passer, Newton (who picked
up 8 of 11 third downs) picked up 2 long 3rd downs with scrambles, one
evading 5 Patriots in one of the Panthers' plays of the
And that's the thing. Did the defense stay up with Tom Brady? Not
necessarily. 20 points is still allright - he put 55 on Pittsburgh.
Did Special Teams win the day? No. Ted Ginn made only modest things
happen, and Brad Nortman picked a bad time to have a bad punt in the 3rd
quarter - right after Carolina went 3 and out (I believe this was the
only time that happened in this game, but that's off memory). The short
field became the Pats' first lead, 20-17.
But the offense answered Brady when it had to. Really, since the Pats
had to kick a FG near the end, that was the difference. Carolina
answered score for score, but closed with the TD. It was the third long
scoring drive for Newton, who boasted drives of 80 and 90 earlier in the
game. They finished with the Ted Ginn score with a minute left, which
felt like too long to leave. But what do you do there - have Ginn
kneel? You take the score.
Newton had some off plays - he missed a short receiver or two, he threw
to LaFell in double coverage. But he made some plays downfield - a
pretty 42 yarder to Steve Smith that sparked an Aqib Talib meltdown, for
instance - and remained efficient. It's a good sign - when Newton can
make plays like this, but not turn the ball over. When he can play a
conservative game when needed, and go answer the bell when needed.
He's gonna really take Carolina to the cleaners when it's time to pull
off that contract.