John Kasay Kicks Carolina to NFC South Championship

Richie FenderCorrespondent IDecember 29, 2008

The Cardiac Cats were in full force against the New Orleans Saints at the Super Dome. John Kasay came through in the end with a field goal that would give Carolin the NFC South Division title and a first round bye. This would also give the Panthers a playoff game on their home field, where they were the only team in the NFL to remain unbeaten.

FUN FACT: The Carolina Panthers receive their third division title in franchise history and first since 2003 when they advanced to Super Bowl XXXVIII.

John Kasay commented, “You guys dubbed us the Cardiac Cats a few years ago, right? Well, I think you can pull out the old hats and t-shirts and get ready for the ride. By God's grace, this one went in. Any time you don't capitalize by scoring points on offense, it can quickly bite you. They're not easy. None of them are."

DeAngelo Williams  commented on John Kasay's greatness, “We knew they weren’t going to fold their tent and that we had to come out and keep fighting. John Kasay is the Ice Man and did a great job for us tonight.”

FUN FACT: The Panthers' 12 wins ties a franchise record set in 1996 (also 12-4).
The first quarter was all John Kasay. His leg was getting a workout with a 45 yard and a 26 yard field goal to score the only points of the quarter.

The second quarter was a little more competitive with a Saints, Garrett Hartley 21-yard field goal. Not to be out kicked John Kasay added another 34-yard field goal. Then Carolina added two touchdowns with a Muhsin Muhammad eight-yard pass and a Dante Wesley 12-yard kick off fumble return for a touchdown.

After a controversial reversal call, the Saints, Marques Colston  nabbed a 26-yard TD pass to make the game 23-10 Carolina at the half.

I'm sure all who watched the game are still trying to figure out how officials overturned the catch and fumble by Saints receiver Marques Colston near the end of the first half.

I'm still scratching my head after watching Colston clearly catch the ball, get two feet down, and make a "football" move up the field. Colston then clearly had the ball knocked out of his hand before he went down which was without a doubt recovered by Carolina. Another call that proves the officials need to get back in school during the off season.

This was a huge play because the Panthers were up 23-3. I believe this interception would have put the Saints away for good. Maybe the officials wanted a close game? This official decision which was then ruled an incompletion allowed New Orleans to score two plays later on a 26-yard touchdown reception from Drew Brees to cut Carolina’s lead to 13 at the half.

The third quarter was slow with Jonathan Stewart scoring the only points of the quarter with a two yard TD run.

The fourth quarter was when the game got interesting for Saints fans and scary for Panther fans. New Orleans scored three unanswered touchdowns, Robert Meachem seven yard TD reception, Lance Moore nine yard TD reception and another Lance Moore 13-yard TD reception.

Then the man of the hour was getting set to shine. John Kasay launched a 42-yard bullet to win the game 33-31 and secure the NFC South Division Title while ending up the only NFC South team to beat another NFC south in their home.

FUN FACT: DeAngelo Williams rushed for a total, 178 yards and broke the Panthers' single-season record for rush yards (1,515) and 100-yard games (8), both previously held by Stephen Davis in 2003.

Williams also had 18 rushing touchdowns coming into this game which leads the NFL. DeAngelo Williams had the highest first half rushing yards by a running back this season (15 rushes, 143 yards)

FUN FACT: Jonathan Stewart rushed for a touchdown, giving the Panthers the fourth set of teammates in NFL history to have 10 rushing TDs in a single season.

Steve Smith responded to the victory, which Carolina needed to avoid going on the road in the first round of the playoffs. "It's a huge relief. If we lose this game, the cards would have been stacked against us."

Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme said, “It feels great. This division is probably the toughest in football. I’ve never had a bye week before and believe me when I say we need a week off, both the offense and the defense. After a week off we have a home game.

This is it. We’ll be down to eight teams and we are one of them. The future is right ahead of us now. When you have a player like Brees, you know he can chuck it. They have the firepower and the weapons to make it a game. So I never thought they were out of it."

Carolina head coach, John Fox said, “That all looks good on paper, but it’s what you do with that (No. 2) seed. It doesn’t matter who it is or where it is, whether you are the one seed or the sixth seed. Either way we knew we had a spot in the playoffs. I think the week off helps players and hopefully we get guys rested up and healed up. But again, unless you do something with it, that seed means nothing.”

FUN FACT: John Fox is 7-0 all time at the Saints.

FUN FACT: Drew Brees finished with 5,069 passing yards, this makes him the second quarterback in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards in a season. However, he finished 15 yards shy of tying Dan Marino's single-season record set in 1984 (5,084).  Marino's record is safe for another season.

I was watching this game with my wife and we both agreed that this was another ugly win. Don't get me wrong, it's great to win the division again and to secure a first round bye but the Panthers can't afford to let teams come back into the game and expect to win playoff games.

The Panthers were up 23-10 at the half. The first half was wonderful, Carolina was firing in all cylinders but it seemed to us they abandoned the run the second half. Maybe the were resting Williams, I don't know. The one thing I do know, the game should have NEVER been this close.