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Carolina Panthers

Panthers pick off win over Colts


INDIANAPOLIS - When the Indianapolis Colts drove to within 3 yards of a potential game-tying score Sunday, the Carolina Panthers easily could have said, "Here we go again."

Instead, the Panthers responded with an emphatic, "Here we go!"

Charles Godfrey tipped a pass in the back of the end zone, and fellow safety Sherrod Martin corralled the ball just before stepping out of bounds to secure a 27-19 victory, the Panthers' first road victory in 23 months.

"When things happen during the game, you have to put the bad things behind you and go on to the next play," Martin said. "We've got to play together, got to stick together through the ups and downs, and that's what we did today."

As a result, Carolina (3-8) kept the Colts (0-11) winless while snapping a franchise-record 12-game road losing streak. They had last won away from home on Dec. 27, 2009, a 41-9 victory over the New York Giants.

"I give all respect to those guys in the room, because they've gone through so much," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "For us to get this one is important, and it's something we hope we can build off of and use as a springboard as we go forward."

It wasn't as easy as it looked like it might be early. The Panthers broke out to a 10-0 lead and never trailed, but the success-starved Colts continued to make just enough plays to remain within range.

Carolina, however, always made the one play that kept Indianapolis at bay.

Just when it looked like the Panthers might win going away, taking a 24-13 lead on a beautiful 80-yard drive capped by running back DeAngelo Williams' second rushing touchdown of the half, the Colts refused to go away.


They caught lightning in a bottle when quarterback Curtis Painter hit wide receiver Reggie Wayne over the middle at the Carolina 45. Godfrey and cornerback Darius Butler missed the tackle, and Wayne took off in the open field, niftily avoiding Martin at the 20 on his way to a 56-yard touchdown that moved the Colts within 24-19 after a failed two-point attempt.

"We kind of ran into each other, knocked each other off the tackle, and he just made a great run after the catch," Godfrey said. "Those things are going to happen, but good teams bounce back from those. We came back with two great plays in the red zone."

Panthers rookie Kealoha Pilares, who had a team-record 101-yard kickoff return touchdown a week ago, returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards to the Indianapolis 32, setting up Olindo Mare's 41-yard field goal with 5:53 left that extended the lead to 27-19.

From there, it was up to the defense.

First, the Colts drove to the Carolina 33 before cornerback Chris Gamble stepped in front of wide receiver Pierre Garcon in the end zone and intercepted a pass with 4:21 to play.

"They wanted to make a big play so they tried to throw the ball downfield, but I was ready for it," Gamble said. "I knew they were going to test me deep, and I was able to come up with a play."

Indianapolis held Carolina without a first down and got the ball back with 3:09 to go. The Colts moved 74 yards, including a fourth-and-5 conversion at the Carolina 15, before Godfrey and Martin combined to seal it.

"I saw the guy in the slot (Austin Collie) looking at me, reading me, and the quarterback was looking at me," Godfrey said. "When he backed up, I read at his eyes, and then I looked back at the receiver. The receiver broke, and I just broke on the ball and got my hand in and tipped it up. Then Sherrod made a heck of a play."

Early on, it looked like no late-game heroics would be necessary. When Panthers quarterback Cam Newton easily scored on the third play of the second quarter, a called run out of the shotgun from 14 yards out, Carolina claimed a 10-0 lead. The stats were even more lopsided than the scoreboard, with the Panthers racking up 125 yards while holding Indianapolis to 1 yard.

The Colts showed some life on their next drive, picking up their initial first down before, on third-and-3 from their own 41, a deep pass intended for Wayne resulted in a 42-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. On the next play, running back Donald Brown sped around the right side for a 17-yard touchdown to make it 10-7.


The Colts later tied it at 10, and defensive end Jamaal Anderson blocked Mare's 45-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the half.

The Colts had all the momentum, but the Panthers maintained belief.

"We came in at halftime and talked about what we had to do, and we went out and did it," Rivera said. "I told the guys, 'We're going to cover the kick, the defense is going to go three-and-out, we're going to return the punt, and the offense is going to go down and score."

That's exactly what happened, with Williams capping a 64-yard march with a 25-yard touchdown run for a 17-10 lead.

"I'm proud of this team and how we kept battling," said Newton, who completed 20-of-27 passes for 208 yards and ran for 53 yards on nine carries. "No matter what we were faced with, we had a bend-but-don't-break mentality. At the end, we got a break and got the win."

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