© Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Gano's 63-yard FG caps 33-31 victory over Giants

Jason Huber
October 07, 2018 - 9:46 pm

Prior to the game, the Carolina Panthers (3-1) included Special Teams in their pre-game introductions for the first time. By the end of the game, Graham Gano's 63-yard field goal with time expiring sealed the Panthers 33-31 victory in a wild game at home against the New York Giants (1-4). 

With Cam Newton and Giants QB Eli Manning both trading a pair of interceptions late in the game, the Giants took the lead with 1:15 remaining as Manning threw a 15-yard touchdown to Saquon Barkley. 

Trailing 31-30 with 68 seconds remaining, a 20-yard pass from Newton to DJ Moore and nine-yard pass to Christian McCaffrey put the Panthers in long field goal territory on fourth down with 11 seconds remaining. 

That's when Gano did his magic, knocking in a career-long 63-yarder. The field goal is the second longest in NFL history behind Matt Prater's 64-yarder. 

"That was fun. I don't even think it's hit me," Gano said. "I didn't think it was that far when we went out there, I knew we had one, I think six years ago against Atlanta. That was 63 and tipped at the line so that was in my mind to just get the ball in the air. I'm just very blessed to have that opportunity and to have the guys around me."

Before Sunday, Gano's career high was 59. He made four field goals against the Giants including his game-winner. Gano has now made 35 field goals in a row at home. 

"A wise man told me once that a great quarterback is only as good as his kicker," Newton said. "Graham put the whole team on his back today. Well, on his toe today."

For head coach Ron Rivera, the confidence in Gano never wavered. 

"Piece of cake. Piece of cake," Rivera said. "Come on now, you know I don't change my expressions.

Trailing 3-0 after the Giants first offensive drive, Carolina put themselves on the board early as Newton threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel in his first game back. It was Samuel's first touchdown pass of his two-year career that was decimated by an injury last year. 

"I gotta make something happen, you know?" Samuel said. "When I touch the ball I feel like nobody can stop me. Just getting back in the groove, going back to what I was doing college, I feel like it's similar to me." 

In the process, Samuel broke a multitude of tackles by the Giants.

"He has come along and helped us. He has always been a key asset. I don't think he understands his threshold of greatness," Newton said. "Today he showed it. I told him he just has to build on it. He is such a fun player, we have to get the ball in his hands." 

At the start of the second quarter, Samuel made another big play, but this time on special teams. Samuel forced a fumble by Odell Beckham Jr. on the Giants punt return and Colin Jones recovered the ball for a Panthers touchdown to give Carolina a 14-3 lead. 

"It just happened. DJ (Moore) made a great play by forcing the returner to try and avoid him, try to block him down the field, and my job is to go and finish the playoff," Samuel said. 

New York decided to switch things up with their offensive schemes on the next drive. Beckham Jr. took reigns and threw his own touchdown pass for 57-yards to Saquon Barkley to put New York back within 10. 

"That is something we have been going through," Barkley said. We called it before, but we had to check out of it. Odell did a great job getting the ball in the air. I caught the ball and found a way to get in the end zone." 

In a game full of penalties, mistakes and big plays, Newton threw for two touchdowns with 237 passing yards on 21/35 passing, but two interceptions late by Giants Janoris Jenkins and Curtis Riley forced the Panthers to have to make a comeback.

Holding onto a 20-16 lead at the end of the second and third quarter, Carolina pulled ahead 27-16 with 11:28 remaining in the game after a Newton to Christian McCaffrey 18-yard touchdown pass. 

The touchdown came after veteran Panthers safety Mike Adams picked off Manning at the end of the third quarter.

After the Panthers took the 11-point lead, Adams picked off Eli for the second time. 

"We talked about it all week. Disguise, just disguising. On both plays, I just disguised," Adams said. "I was down in the box and then I just popped out both times. I guess Eli (Manning) thought it was one coverage when we were playing another and he ended up throwing it right to me. I got blessed on both plays."

If things weren't crazy enough, Giants safety Janoris Jenkins intercepted Newton almost immediately after Adams' interception, giving New York the ball back.

Manning drove the Giants down the field and connected with Odell Beckham Jr. for a 33-yard touchdown and Rhett Ellison for the two-point conversion to make it a 27-24 Panthers lead. 

"It was a lack of focus," Newton said. "I just gotta do better." 

Newton connected with Jarius Wright for a 27-yard pass on fourth down with 3:27 remaining to give Carolina life. Gano's field goal made it a 30-24 Carolina lead. 

From there, Manning threw a 55-yard bomb to former Panther receiver Russell Shepard to set up the Manning to Barkley touchdown. It was the first time the Giants have scored 30 or more in a game for the first time in 37 games.

Yet, it wasn't enough as Newton had one more drive in store to set Gano up for the game-winner.

"He has a thing about doing that against the Giants for whatever reason. This is the second time where he has had to come back and save us with a nice drive to put in position and have Graham (Gano) kick a field goal," Rivera recalled. "Hats off to the Giants though. That's a young, scrappy football team with a new coaching staff, new coordinators and will be a force to be reckoned with very quickly." 

The Panthers have now won eight-straight games at home dating back to 2017 and will travel to Washington next Sunday to face the Redskins. 

Other Notables: 

-Newly signed safety Eric Reid continued his protest on police brutality by kneeling during the National Anthem pregame. On the day, Reid finished with three tackles. 

Read more: https://wfnz.radio.com/articles/new-panthers-safety-eric-reid-returns-nf...

-Mike Adams' two interceptions give him 45 career takeaways, the second most among active NFL players.

-Giants Saquon Barkley finished with 100 all-purpose yards for the fifth consecutive game.

-Odell Beckham Jr. finished with 131 receiving yards on eight receptions. He is the first Giants player since 1959 to throw and catch a touchdown in a game. 

-The Panthers held New York to 0/7 on third down attempts. 

-James Bradberry finished the game with a team-high seven tackles for the Panthers. That included a key touchdown breakup on Odell. 

-There was some "catch" controversy in the first quarter when Rivera through a challenge on what looked like a completion by Funchess. The refs overturned the call to give Funchess a 13-yard gain. Later in the game, Rivera lost a challenge saying Ian Thomas had a complete pass.

"To be honest with you, I believed our guys had control of the football, 100 percent. My challenge was based off a challenge that happened last week," Rivera said." 

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