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Graham Gano's game winner pushes Panthers past Giants 33-31


CHARLOTTE -- In a game loaded with ups and downs, the Panthers - behind the leg of kicker Graham Gano - escaped Bank of America Stadium with a dramatic 33-31 victory over the Giants on Sunday.

Gano's 63-yard conversion - his fourth successful attempt of the game - as time expired marked both a franchise and career long for the veteran, who won the game in similar fashion for the Panthers in the teams' last meeting in 2015.

"That was fun. I don't even think it's hit me. I didn't think it was that far when we went out there," Gano said. "I really don't think about a whole lot because I know the group in front of me is going to do its job well.

"I'm just very blessed to have that opportunity and to have the guys around me."

Down 31-30, Carolina's offense took the field with a 1:08 left in regulation. Quarterback Cam Newton connected on two of his four pass attempts to place the Panthers on the New York 45 with 30 seconds left. A 1-yard rush by running back Christian McCaffrey and a Newton spike eventually set the stage for Gano's heroics.

"Over the years, you see so many quarterbacks get [helped] out by the kickers, and Graham put the whole team on his back today. Well, on his toe today," Newton said.

Newton finished 21-of-35 for 237 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions to go along with 29 rushing yards. McCaffrey, who hauled in his first touchdown of the season late in the game, ended the night with 58 yards on 17 rushes, and five receptions for 35 yards.

Despite trailing for most of the afternoon, New York hung around throughout the second half. A 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. early in the fourth quarter pulled New York within three. Following McCaffrey's score after a pick of Manning by Carolina safety Mike Adams - his second of the game - the Giants answered with a 15-yard Manning pass to rookie running back Saquon Barkley to go up by one. But it would prove to not be enough.

Manning went 22-of-36 for 326 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions while Beckham finished with 131 receiving yards and one touchdown, and a passing touchdown. Barkley was held to 50 rushing yards but had 81 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

An eventful first half set the tone. Giants kicker Alex Rosas registered the contest's first points on a 42-yard field goal on the team's second drive. Carolina's second drive featured a number of big plays.

Wide receiver Curtis Samuel, who made his season debut, capped off the five-play, 75-yard series with a strong 25-yard touchdown after reeling in a Newton pass. Samuel's score came after a 12-yard toe-dragging catch by wide receiver Devin Funchess and a sensational 18-yard rush by rookie DJ Moore on a crafty reverse handoff.

The offense wouldn't stay on the sidelines long after the defense came up with a fourth-down stop at Carolina's 39. A quick three-and-out brought punter Michael Palardy back onto the field, but what happened next was far from routine.

A muffed return by Beckham led to a free-for-all and a rare special teams touchdown for safety Colin Jones, who fell on top of it. Samuel notched a forced fumble during the sequence after knocking the ball out of Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins' hands.

A 47-yard Gano field goal a few plays later put the Panthers up 17-3, but a Giants' trick play - a 57-yard touchdown pass from Beckham to Barkley - cut Carolina's lead to seven. A second 47-yarder from Gano and a 53-yard conversion from Rosas ended an action-packed half with Carolina leading 20-13.

After starting the season 3-0 at home, the Panthers will travel for the first time since Week 2 to take on the Redskins at FedEx Field in Week 6.

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