Picture the scene. A 10-4 Panthers matching up against a 10-4 Saints. Two weeks removed from the Saints inflicting a heavy loss on us to snap our eight game winning streak. A potential NFC South crown and a first round bye on the line. It's been a hard fought game in the pounding rain. Trailing 13-10, on our own 35 yard line, 55 seconds left and no time-outs, Cam Newton has the ball in his hands. The day has been a struggle for him, limited to just 116 passing yards in the previous 59 minutes and his banged up ankle was clearly giving him some discomfort. Not only that, but the man you would look to in those situations, Steve Smith, was sat on the sideline icing up a knee injury.
Cam bombed one in to Ted Ginn for a 37 yard completion to put us into game tying field goal range. Graham Gano is on the touchline watching up that big boot of his. Boom, 14 yard completion to Greg Olsen followed by a spike. 23 seconds remain, plenty of time for one pass attempt and if it fails nail the easy kick. The tension in the rain soaked stadium was palpable, the atmosphere able to be cut by a knife. Out left, Domenik Hixon comes into the game, the ball isn't going to him though, surely? Just three catches for 21 yards all year before the game that day.
The ball is snapped, the crowd collectively and audibly gasps as free safety Malcolm Jenkins comes from nowhere and almost gets around the back of Mike Tolbert, but the bowling ball just gets the shove off in time. Jenkins' outstretched arm just brushes Cam as he steps up in the pocket. A split second later and Cam rifles the ball towards the left edge of the end zone, Hixon has evaded Corey White and dives, catches the ball and clutches in desperately to his chest.
The 70,000+ people in the Bank of American Stadium that day went absolutely crazy, the ground was shaking to it's very core. The win clinched us a play-off berth, our first since 2008. Perhaps this was the win that changed the mindset of our team. Clinching a postseason berth, and setting up a real possibility of winning the NFC South instilled a hunger into the hearts and minds of Ron Rivera's team.
I believe this hunger is still there. It was hunger that saw them fight back when everyone doubted them last season and scrap to a second NFC South title. The hunger that has seen us defy all the expert views to start 14-0. The hunger and desire that the players showed when they refused to be defeated on Sunday.
Back on this day in 2013, Thomas Davis said after this game that he spoke to the guys before the match about Sam Mills and about the motto 'Keep Pounding'. Every side in the NFL seems to have one, 'Who Dat' ' Who Dey' etc. but is there a side that lives and breathes their motto like we do? Is there a side that takes their motto onto the pitch, into their game, and most importantly into their hearts like the Carolina Panthers do? I believe not.
Keep Pounding. Always.