Gano answered that pressure on a rainy Monday night. He connected on two field goals in overtime, including a 52-yarder that lifted the undefeated Carolina Panthers to a 29-26 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Carolina (7-0) earned its 11th consecutive regular-season win and opened a two-game lead over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.
Gano, who missed an extra point in the fourth quarter, came through when the Panthers needed him the most. After Adam Vinatieri kicked a 50-yard field goal for Indianapolis in OT, Gano was good from 42 yards and then again from 52 after Roman Harper deflected an Andrew Luck pass over the middle and Luke Kuechly came up with the interception.
”I had the ball back a yard from where it was supposed to go,” Gano said of the setup. ”I looked up and saw (long snapper) J.J. (Jansen) waving at me as he was waiting to snap the ball. I thought, `Oh, we’ve got to scoot it up!’ I looked up and the play clock was at 10.”
Gano made it anyway.
”Never a doubt,” Newton joked of Carolina’s latest win, which came after they surrendered a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. ”We are one of the lucky few to say we’re 7-0. We’re not content.”
The Panthers didn’t make it easy on themselves.
Luck, limited to 40 yards passing in the first three quarters, threw two touchdown passes in the final 7:11 of regulation and also led the Colts (3-5) to a tying field goal in the final seconds. The Panthers could have won it with 2 seconds left, but Kuechly dropped a potential interception in the end zone and Vinatieri kicked a 24-yarder for the third of his four field goals.
”It just slipped through my hands,” Kuechly said.
Newton was 16 of 35 for 248 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 41 yards.
After Vinatieri gave the Colts a 26-23 lead in overtime, the Panthers had another chance to close it out but Ted Ginn Jr. dropped a 56-yard touchdown pass. Greg Olsen then bailed his teammate out with a one-handed catch to help set up Gano’s tying field goal.
Luck finished with 231 yards passing and two touchdowns with three interceptions, giving him an NFL-high 12 on the season.
”It’s my problem, and it’s hurting the team,” Luck said. ”I’ve got to fix it. It’s tough to win like that, and I’m disappointed in myself. Mentally, I feel all right. It’s tough to overcome in the game. The points, the short field position, that’s the important thing.”
Luck refused to discuss a report that he has been battling rib injuries in addition to a shoulder problem.
He started to look like the Luck of old in the fourth quarter, throwing an 18-yard touchdown pass to Andre Johnson and an 8-yard TD strike to Fleener to bring the Colts to 23-20.
”It’s a long season, and our goals are still attainable,” Luck said. ”It doesn’t make this loss any easier to swallow. We keep grinding, pick our heads up and get back to work. We’ve got to fix these things in practice, and fix these things in games.”
Playing in a steady rain, the Panthers’ defense put the clamps on Luck while jumping to a 10-0 lead.
Newton threw an interception and also fumbled on the Colts 3-yard line, but rallied late in the third quarter. Leading 10-6, Newton threw touchdown passes to Greg Olsen and Philly Brown to give the Panthers a 23-6 lead.
It was a bizarre night, with two activists rappelling on ropes from the upper deck holding a protest sign for most of the second half as fans watched in awe. They finally descended, and the Panthers said four people were arrested by Charlotte Mecklenburg Police.