Tifton Gazette

Local Sports

December 8, 2012

Panthers looking for revenge vs. rival Falcons

TIFTON — It's difficult to say one play changed the course of a season.

But in the case of the Carolina Panthers, quarterback Cam Newton's late-game fumble in a Week 4 loss to the Atlanta Falcons seemed to do just that, sending their once-promising season spiraling downward.

On the flip side, the win galvanized the Falcons, who would go on to win seven of their next eight games en route to clinching the NFC South division title last week.

Carolina fans remember the play well.

On a third-and-2 at the Atlanta 46, the Panthers needed only to pick up a first down to seal an impressive road win against the then unbeaten Falcons.

And Newton got it, but then misfortune struck.

After Newton initially crossed the first down marker, the ball was jarred loose and bounced backward. The Panthers recovered but they no longer had the first down and coach Ron Rivera decided to punt on fourth-and-1.

Rivera's strategy looked like it might work. The Panthers pinned the Falcons down at their own 1 with 59 seconds left and no timeouts.

But quarterback Matt Ryan completed a long pass to Roddy White and the Falcons quickly moved into field goal range and Matt Bryant kicked the game-winner with 5 seconds left for an improbable victory.

Final score: Falcons 30, Panthers 28.

An exuberant Ryan left cursing at the Panthers sideline after the chippy game, telling them in no uncertain terms to get off their field.

The Panthers were devastated. Instead of being a game behind the Falcons, they were 1-3 and three games back in the NFC South.

Rivera called the loss "gut wrenching."

The Panthers would lose their next four games — even though they led in the fourth quarter in three of those games.

"At some point you should be able to snap out, but it did carry over," Rivera said. "And it hit Cam as hard as anybody because it was very personal for him being from Atlanta. He wants to play well there. But yeah, it did carry over for the next week or two. I remember the Wednesday practice the following week was just brutal."

Losing close games has become the norm in Carolina. In two seasons under Rivera the Panthers are 1-12 in games decided by seven points or less.

Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez can relate to Carolina's frustration.

"I've been on a team like that in Kansas City where we won two games but every game was three or four points as far as the loss goes," Gonzalez said. "I don't know what it is, but good teams find a way to win."

The Falcons certainly have.

They avenged their only loss last week against New Orleans, and now they're looking to clinch home-field advantage. Next up are the Panthers and there's a pretty good chance emotions will be riding high when the Falcons show up.

The Panthers have grown a little tired of Ryan, who has defeated them in each of his last six starts. Also, Carolina's players were not happy with Ryan's celebration after the win, with some calling it "disrespectful" after TV cameras caught the quarterback cursing at the Panthers sideline about getting off their field.

Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy said the rematch is about "payback" and "punishment."

"We owe them something and it is coming," Hardy said. "I'm trying to mess with their whole playoff experience. I want them to go home sick in the stomach and mad about life, a couple of depression issues, all types of things. It's going to be a long day from my point of view. I'm coming."

Hardy even claimed the Panthers (3-9) are "a better team" than the Falcons.

The Falcons (11-1) might want to grab Hardy for a moment and simply point him in the direction of the scoreboard — or maybe the standings.

White said Ryan is a "fiery guy" and nobody in the Falcons locker room has a problem with what he said after the last game, although he certainly didn't expect anyone to catch him on camera.

"He wants to win. Just speaking in general, I didn't have a problem with what he said. It is our field. So get off it! Get lost!" White said with a laugh. "It's that simple.

"Those guys, they've been close to beating us the last couple of years. They felt like they should have won some of the games and they felt like they're a better football team than us, so they've got a chip on their shoulder and we felt like we're a better football team than them. So the war of words always comes out."

Despite Carolina's record, the Falcons know they're probably going to be in for a game.

In the first game, Carolina dominated most of the time and sacked Ryan seven times — Georgia native Charles Johnson was credited with 3½ of them. Also, Newton threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 86 yards and another score.

Of course, it's the one fumble that still stands out.

"To lose a game like that is always hard," Newton said. "Me personally, I felt I could have did something that could have had a part in us winning. I think that's the hard part.

"Secondly, it's a rivalry game. The Panthers and the Falcons have always had a bad taste in each other's mouth when facing each other. With me being from Atlanta, it's even a more added dimension to the game. I want to win this game."


Text Only
Local Sports
  • Trojans get one hit, but win region title

    If high school baseball games lasted six innings, Zack Bullard would have had a no-hitter and the Tift County Blue Devils would have been on top of the region standings. It was the last inning that cost both player and team. Coffee only had one hit, but it was all they needed for a 2-1 victory that clinched the 1-AAAAAA title.

    April 17, 2014

  • Remembering Miss Mattie

    The year was 1991.
    My father and I were at McDonald's on Cleveland Avenue in Atlanta on the way to a Braves game. We were standing in line when a big man behind him just out of the blue started up a conversation.

    April 17, 2014

  • Coffee can’t brew any offense against Tift’s McCray

    For at least a few hours, the Tift County Blue Devils will be able to say they share part of the Region 1-AAAAAA baseball lead. They were winners of the first game of a doubleheader Thursday over the Coffee High Trojans, 4-0. The sides were even with two division losses.

    April 17, 2014

  • Panthers outlast Warriors, 2-1

    The Tiftarea Academy Panthers provided a little more separation in the Region 3-AAA race Wednesday evening. Fresh off a 2-1 win Monday, they added another one, this a 2-1 win over the Brookwood School Warriors.

    April 17, 2014

  • Devils to dine on Coffee and Crisp

    Big games and a big trip. Life takes an exciting turn over the next few days for the Diamond Devils of Tift County High. They start with a doubleheader this afternoon at 4:30 with the Coffee Trojans. Two days later, they will sliding into bases at Turner Field.

    April 16, 2014

  • Lady Panthers gouge GCS, 7-1

    The Tiftarea Academy soccer teams had a windy Tuesday night for Senior Night but they didn’t let the chill in the air stop them from keeping the scoreboard heated up. Seniors Neeli Fortson, Lauren Goforth, Ali Rippy, Britton Robitzsch and Austin Tenneson were recognized after the Lady Panthers sealed a 7-1 victory against the Georgia Christian Lady Generals. The Panthers had to settle for a 1-1 tie.

    April 16, 2014

  • Nashville hosts 5th annual Tyler Carter Memorial Duathlon

    The 5th annual Tyler Carter Memorial Duathlon will be held on Saturday, May 3  at the Berrien County Parks and Recreation Department.  The Duathlon Race course will consist of a 2.3-mile run into an 18.5-mile bike ride and end with a 2.3-mile run.

    April 16, 2014

  • McMinn, Beier shut down Glenwood

    The Tiftarea Academy Panthers mustered only five hits Monday night, but that would be enough for them. Behind the arm of Noah McMinn, clutch hitting from Zach Beier and a big trick play, they bested the Glenwood (Ala.) Gators by a 2-1 score.

    April 15, 2014

  • Panthers ready for region track championships

    Through early Tuesday, the track team at Tiftarea Academy knew they would be participating at a region track meet today. They just were not sure where.
    Coach Ryan Branch said Monday that the meet was scheduled for Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany, but if the event it was hosting was rained out Tuesday, TIftarea would be the hosts. The rains came, but it was not enough to change plans. Branch confirmed Tuesday afternoon that they would be on the road.

    April 15, 2014

  • Tift wins Lady Trojan tourney

    April 15, 2014

Business Marquee
House Ads
Weather Radar

Do you plan to watch any of the Republican National Convention?

     View Results