View the top photos from Panthers at Patriots by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It was third-and-3 with 1:05 remaining in Sunday's game against the Patriots and wide receiver Devin Funchess had already produced one of the best games of his career.
He had six catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns – the first two-score outing for the third-year wideout.
But the game was tied at 30, and Carolina needed one more play from Funchess, cramps be damned.
"He was battling cramps," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Giving everything he's got for his teammates."
Two plays prior, Funchess crumpled to the ground on the sideline. But he sprang up and jogged onto the field for the critical third down from the New England 46-yard line.
He gained enough leverage against cornerback Malcom Butler on an out-breaking route, and quarterback Cam Newton hit him for a massive 5-yard gain to move the chains.
"I've been cramping my whole life. I just had to go out and get it loose," Funchess said. "Then I knew I needed to go get the first down for the team so we could kick the field goal."
Three plays later, Graham Gano won the game with a 48-yard field goal as time expired. It wouldn't have happened without one last contribution from Funchess.
"He's one of those unsung heroes that's making a huge impact," quarterback Cam Newton said. "I trust him and I know what his capabilities are. He's a big body that attacks the ball with his hands.
"The sky is the limit if he keeps playing the way he's playing."
It was Funchess' two touchdowns – one at the end of the second quarter and another in the third – that swung the game in Carolina's direction.
The first score took advantage of a busted in coverage and Newton found Funchess for a 10-yard touchdown on a routine pitch-and-catch, which gave the Panthers their first lead at 17-13.
The score to start the second half was an example of Funchess at his best, getting across the face of Butler and using his 6-foot-4-inch frame to secure the catch for the 16-yard touchdown.
"This is part of the reason we went out and drafted him," Rivera said. "We just think the young man's got that kind of ability."