A seven-game losing streak makes it difficult to remember the happy times, but ’tis the season for joy.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look back at five joyous occasions this season.
Dawn of a new era
When Panthers fans filed in for the season opener at Bank of America Stadium, they were greeted by a festive site: A Panther head painted at midfield for the first time in franchise history, with the NFL logo that had lived there since the beginning replaced by new team owner David Tepper. The Panthers then went out and protected their house, sacking Dak Prescott six times and coming close to shutting out the Cowboys in a 16-8 victory.
A kick for the ages
It was a notable season against NFC East foes, including Carolina’s dramatic Week 5 victory over the Giants. The Panthers seemed to be in control, then all of a sudden they were in deep trouble – but not too deep for Graham Gano. His 63-yard boot in the waning seconds went down as the longest game-winning kick in NFL history.
A gentle giant of a man
Two days later, the story was off the field, when favorite son Julius Peppers spread good cheer to those who have cheered for him over the years. The man with a big heart and bigger smile came out of his shell in 2018. Having already donated $100,000 to Hurricane Florence relief events, he hit the road on his day off to meet and help victims in an impoverished area of his home state – the first of several such outings for the Panthers’ nominee for Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
A comeback for the ages
Another NFC East opponent, another dramatic day. The Panthers struggled the first three quarters at the reigning Super Bowl champion Eagles before piecing together an unlikely rally. Down 17-0 entering the final quarter, Cam Newton and Co. pulled off the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history, heading home with a 21-17 victory.
Fathers, sons and football
The losing streak has been painful, but there have been moments of joy within it. None has been more impactful than Taylor Heinicke’s start Sunday against the Falcons. The undrafted quarterback filled in for an ailing Newton, and – playing with his late father on his mind – Heinicke took the offense the length of the field on Carolina’s opening drive. Upon throwing his first career touchdown pass, Heinicke patted the tattoo on his left shoulder that honors his father, pointed to the sky, then celebrated with one of his biggest fans – Newton.