Gano’s FG as time expires lifts Panthers over Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Ron Rivera had a message for his team after Sunday’s dramatic win over the New England Patriots.
“We expected this!” the Carolina head coach screamed after Graham Gano drilled a 46-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Panthers a 33-30 upset of the defending NFL champions on Sunday.
But the underdog and battered Panthers almost didn’t hang on, blowing a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter before a costly holding penalty on New England cornerback Stephen Gilmore kept a final drive going. Then, Gano, making up for missing an earlier extra point, came through on the final play of the game.
Cam Newton, overcoming a poor passing start to his season, threw for three touchdowns, ran for another and became the all-time winningest quarterback in franchise history with his 54th win.
“I feel like this was a breakthrough game for us offensively,” Newton said.
The Panthers are 3-1, but veteran defensive end Julius Peppers, who played despite having his injured right shoulder in a brace and had two sacks after bouncing back from an early knee injury, wanted to calm things down.
“That was the 2016 Patriots that won the Super Bowl. This is the 2017 Carolina Panthers,” he said.
“It was nice. I thought we did a good job battling through a little bit of adverse conditions. We showed a little bit of character. You could call this a character win.”
Newton torched the shaky Patriots defense for 316 yards, going 22 of 29, and picked up 44 more yards on the ground.
Jonathan Stewart, who became the team’s all-time leading rusher, had a huge 15-yard run on the final drive, also making up for an earlier miscue -- a fumble at the Patriots’ 9. The run, then another Patriots penalty and two runs by Newton into the line, set up the kick.
“I‘m fully confident,” Gano said. “I‘m having a good year. Devin Funchess came to me when the Patriots went down and scored the touchdown and said to me, ‘We’ll get you in range, don’t even worry.’ I said, ‘I‘m not, you get me in range and I’ll put it through.'”
Funchess, fighting through leg cramps late, had seven catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns as Carolina became the fourth straight team to pass for over 300 yards against the Patriots, who came in the lowest-rated defense in the NFL.
“It’s not where it needs to be,” cornerback Malcolm Butler, who had a first-half interception, said of the defense. “We’ve got to play better. We’re beating ourselves. We lost the game ourselves. It was nothing Carolina was doing. Basically, we beat ourselves (with) penalties.”
The Patriots have allowed 128 points in the first four games. Last year, they yielded 61 in going 3-1 in the first four.
Tom Brady, recording his 79th 300-yard game, was 11 of 14 in the two scoring drives that tied the game -- Dion Lewis running 8 yards for one score and then Danny Amendola catching a 1-yard TD pass that tied it with 3:09 remaining.
Brady finished 32 of 45 for 307 yards with two touchdowns, with running back James White catching 10 but for just 47 yards.
It was the first time since 2012 that Brady lost two games at home in a season. The loss kept Brady from tying Brett Favre and Peyton Manning for the most regular-season wins by a quarterback -- 168.
“There’s no guarantees and every year is different,” said Brady, who engineered a comeback against Houston that pulled out a 36-33 win the previous week. “We just haven’t done a good job at home.”
Stephen Gostkowski kicked a Patriots-record 58-yard field goal at the end of the first half while tight end Rob Gronkowski’s 80 yards on four catches made him the all-time leader in catching Brady passes.
Unlike last week, when 16 Patriots kneeled and Carolina’s Julius Peppers remained in the locker room during the national anthem, there were no protests during this national anthem. Patriots owner Robert Kraft joined his team on the sideline, where the players had their right hands on their hearts and their left on a teammate’s shoulder.
“I thought it was very well-thought out and I‘m happy we responded that way,” Brady said.
Two Panthers -- Stewart and Thomas Davis -- appeared to be in prayer during the song. Then they won the game, which again showed the world how talented and productive Newton can be.
“He knew he was up against one of the all-time great QBs,” Rivera said. “He wanted to prove he could play with him.”
NOTES: Patriots LB Dont‘a Hightower, who missed the first four games of the season with a knee injury, returned and had a big fourth-quarter sack. Head coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t comment on Hightower’s play, but said, “It’s good to have him back.” ... The record-setting 58-yard field goal by Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski was a yard longer than kicks made both by him and Adam Vinatieri ... The already banged-up Panthers lost S Kurt Coleman (knee) and WR Damiere Byrd (forearm) in the first half. Byrd said after the game he broke his arm. ... Carolina, which opened a stretch of four of five games on the road, visits the Detroit Lions next Sunday while the Patriots are at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night. “It’s a quick turnaround and everyone’s going to deal with it at some point this year,” Patriots QB Tom Brady said.