The Carolina Panthers extended their National Football League winning streak to six games by beating the New England Patriots 24-20 on Cam Newton’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn with 59 seconds remaining.
Newton had three touchdown passes last night in Charlotte as the Panthers improved to 7-3 and remained within one game of the first-place New Orleans Saints (8-2) in the National Football Conference’s South division.
Carolina’s defense, which had allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL entering Week 11, limited Tom Brady to one touchdown pass a week after he threw four during a 55-31 rout of Pittsburgh in which the Patriots had 610 yards of offense. Brady guided New England to Carolina’s 18-yard line before his final pass was intercepted in the end zone as time expired.
“The defense stood up at the end and offensively we answered the bell each and every time we had an opportunity to,” Newton said in a televised interview.
The Patriots fell to 7-3 and hold a two-game lead in the American Football Conference’s East division over the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, both of which are 5-5.
The Panthers, who haven’t had a winning season since 2008, have beaten the Patriots and defending NFC-champion San Francisco 49ers in back-to-back weeks.
A flag was thrown on the final play as Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was pushed in the end zone by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. As that happened, Carolina safety Robert Lester stepped in front of both to intercept the pass. Officials then waived off the penalty.
“There was no explanation given to me,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said at a news conference. “The officials ran off the field. A flag was thrown and then the game was over.”
Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, said he thought the play was a face-guarding penalty.
“He obviously impeded his ability to come back to the football,” Dilfer said on ESPN. “I understand it looks under-thrown, but if it’s pass interference, it’s pass interference. Not taking anything away from the Carolina Panthers, but the New England Patriots should have the ball goal-to-go there for one last play.”
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