Panthers survive late collapse, edge Colts in OT

By The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 3, 2015 at 1:40 AM
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Graham Gano knew to focus on what might be coming up rather than dwell on the past.

The Carolina kicker was clutch in overtime, making a 42-yard field goal and then a game-winning 52-yarder as the Panthers stayed unbeaten by defeating the Indianapolis Colts 29-26 on a rainy Monday night at Bank of America Stadium.

"I feel blessed to have that opportunity at the end," Gano said.

Gano atoned for a missed extra point, and the Panthers (7-0) continued their best start in franchise history after blowing a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead.

"We have had games when you have weather like this and sometimes those things happen," he said of the missed kick. "We prepare for that the best we can."

After the teams traded overtime field goals, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly's interception of quarterback Andrew Luck off a deflection from safety Roman Harper gave the Panthers the ball at the Colts' 39-yard line in the sudden-death portion of the extra session.

"The ball went right to me. All I had to do is catch it," Kuechly said. "Roman Harper was the key guy on that. He got his hand in there."

Carolina has won a franchise-record 11 consecutive regular-season games dating to last season. The Panthers matched last year's regular-season victory total, when they went 7-8-1, which was good enough to win the NFC South.

"We're one of the lucky few to be able to say we're 7-0," Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said.

The Colts (3-5) wiped out a 17-point deficit in the last 7:04 of regulation as Luck suddenly got untracked, throwing two touchdown passes.

He was miffed that it wasn't enough because it took so long to fall into a rhythm.

"We've got to fix those things in practice and fix them in games," said Luck, who finished with three interceptions. "We did some decent things to give ourselves a chance but messed up at the end by throwing an interception."

Adam Vinatieri's 50-yard field goal on the opening possession of overtime put the Colts in good position. The Panthers matched it when Gano connected from 42 yards.

The Carolina possession included a dropped pass by wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. that would have, at the very least, taken the ball inside the 10-yard line.

Newton clicked on a couple of second-half drives and it put Carolina up 23-6. He threw two touchdown passes in a 4 1/2-minute span.

Still trailing 23-20, the Colts regained possession at their own 40 with 2:02 remaining and out of timeouts. Luck's next three passes were incomplete before a fourth-down conversion, and after that, the Colts moved methodically to the Carolina 6-yard line.

Vinatieri's 24-yard field goal tied the game on the last play of regulation, completing a 16-play possession.

"We didn't get enough pressure that we needed in the fourth quarter," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said, "and (Luck) makes some nice throws."

Newton finished 16 of 35 for 248 yards and two touchdowns. He was picked off once.

Luck completed 23 of 47 passes for 232 yards for the Colts, who lost their third game in a row. Through three quarters, he had only 40 passing yards and was intercepted twice.

"(Our defense) kept us in it and gave us a chance to win it," Luck said. "The Panthers made the plays when they needed them."

Luck's 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Johnson pulled the Colts to within 23-13 with 7:04 left. It was an eight-play, 86-yard march.

Luck then connected with tight end Coby Fleener in the middle of the end zone with 2:27 to go, making it 23-20 after the extra-point kick.

Of Luck's first 16 passes, only five were complete while two were intercepted.

The Panthers were on the verge of scoring late in the third quarter, reaching the Indianapolis 1-yard line. A fumbled snap gave the ball back to the Colts, leaving the score at 10-6.

After the Colts punted from their own end zone, Ginn's 18-yard return helped set up Newton's 27-yard touchdown strike to tight end Greg Olsen.

The next time the Panthers had possession, the drive ended with Newton's 8-yard strike to diving wide receiver Corey Brown in the end zone with 10:44 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Turnovers set up three of the four scoring plays in the first half, much of it played in a bothersome rain. Carolina led 10-6 at the break.

The quarterbacks combined to complete 10 of 27 first-half passes.

The Panthers began their first two possessions in Indianapolis territory after a pair of turnovers.

A fumbled exchange on the game's second snap gave Carolina the ball at the Indianapolis 24-yard line, but the Panthers settled for Gano's 39-yard field goal.

Three plays later, cornerback Charles Tillman intercepted Luck's pass, setting up Carolina at the Colts' 37.

Running back Jonathan Stewart scored on a 3-yard run on fourth down, the second fourth-down pickup on the possession, putting the Panthers on top 10-0.

The Colts got on the board with 10:24 left in the second quarter on Vinatieri's 47-yard field goal. Vinatieri added a 34-yarder 7:04 before the half. Indianapolis' second field goal was made possible by Stewart's fumble and an ensuing personal-foul penalty that put the ball at the Carolina 22.

NOTES: In four Monday night games, Panthers QB Cam Newton has nine passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. ... Newton and Colts QB Andrew Luck were the No. 1 overall draft choices in 2011 and 2012, respectively. ... The Colts held a 6-0 edge in second-quarter points Monday, but they have been outscored 69-38 in the second quarters of games this season. ... The Colts began the night with only 10 sacks this season, but they added two more. Panthers DT Kawann Short had five sacks in the previous two games. ... Indianapolis returns home Sunday to face the unbeaten Denver Broncos, who have former Colts QB Peyton Manning at the controls. ... The Panthers complete a three-game homestand Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, who took their first loss of the season this weekend at Denver.

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