You may have to grant me a little artistic license for what's behind door number three of your Carolina Panthers Advent Calendar. Going by jersey number alone obviously limits my options to Quarterbacks, Kickers, and Punters until the 10th. We've already seen one good and one bad quarterback, and the list of our number 3's is hardly inspiring. Derek Anderson is the stand out name alongside Rohn Stark, Richie Cunningham, Stefan Lefors, and Matt Moore. Also by the nature of the calendar only going to number 24, certain positions will miss out. With that in mind I've tried to mix things up a bit and rather than give you a players stats, I will concentrate on one game.
Behind door number three we have:
Muhsin Muhammad v San Francisco 49ers - Nov 14, 2004
I have chosen this game specifically as Muhammad became the first Panther ever to receive THREE touchdown passes in one game. He remains one of only two Panthers ever to do it, with Steve Smith twice hitting the mark.
Heading into the game the Panthers had been decimated by injury in defense of their NFC crown and headed to the West Coast with a 1-7 record. Things started off horribly the Carolina and they were down 17-3 at the half and saw kicker John Kasay limp off early in the third. Thankfully we were facing a '9ers side with their own injury problems and missing their top four cornerbacks. With a little under four minutes remaining, Muhammad added to an earlier Brandon Bennett TD with a 40 yard grab from a Jake Delhomme pass. This gave the Panthers a 20-17 lead, their first of the game.
We then found ourselves trailing 27-20 with 7 minutes left in the game. Those last seven minutes belonged to Carolina. The defense ate up anything San Francisco threw at them, forcing two interceptions which immediately led to points, something which still happens today. On offense Muhammad found himself wide open in the secondary and took passes of 4 and 26 yards for touchdowns 2 & 3 on the day. These scores sandwiched a go-ahead field goal from punter Todd Sauerbrun, kicking in the absence of Kasay.
The 37-27 victory sent the 49ers to 1-8, their worst start for a quarter of a century and galvanized the Panthers. The win was the first of five consecutive, a run which saw us narrowly miss out of the play-offs with a 7-9 record. Had an overtime defeat to the Falcons and a 3 point deficit to the Saints in weeks 15 and 17 gone our way, we could have secured a most unlikely post-season spot despite a dismal injury list.
Steve Smith repeated Muhammad's triple touchdown feat the following year versus the Dolphins and again in 2007 versus the Houston Texans. Muhammad's performance that day gave the team the spark they needed to kick-start their season and therefore he belongs on our advent calendar.
Who do you think will be the next Panther to complete the hat-trick?
By Dan Rawlinson