Newton's fourth-down leap put Panthers in control
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Leading just 10-6 in the final minute of the first half Sunday, Carolina took a gamble, going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, with Cam Newton leaping over the line and crossing the plane of the end zone just before the ball was punched loose.
"With the league rules, that ball clears the invisible line, it's a touchdown. So thank God for that rule," Newton said.
After time outs by both teams, Carolina lined up with a huge line -- offensive linemen Geoff Hangartner and Nate Chandler, each over 300 pounds, lined up as tackles-eligible, with another tight end flanked outside each, and Newton used his size to stretch the ball across the line before the Bucs poked the ball loose, seeing it caught by Dashon Goldson but with officials holding their hands up to signal the score.
"We knew what was coming. He just made a great play," linebacker Lavonte David said. "He put the ball over the goal line. Slim margin for one of us hitting it out. He got it over before we could hit it out. It's a split-second type thing."
Two other times -- including the previous drive -- the Bucs held at the 5-yard line, holding Carolina to short field goals, but when the Panthers needed seven before halftime, Newton came through. The momentum swing gave Carolina a 17-6 lead with 25 seconds left in the half, and Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn said even with good penetration from the defensive line, it's a difficult play to stop.
"(At the) 1-yard line, you get a good push, but when somebody's 6-6, he has a yard right there just reaching the ball," Clayborn said. "It was just too late."