Carolina's Luke Kuechly drapes his arms around Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone on the game's final play Monday night. Credit: Getty Images
How the Patriots and Panthers' Monday night matchup played out in real time:
8:40 p.m. EDT-The Panthers are certainly fired up for their biggest game (first MNF) in five years. After so many clunkers this season, ESPN has to be thrilled with this matchup; let’s see if it lives up to the hype.
8:43-Who needs Ed Reed when the Patriots have Nate Ebner? Wait, what? He just checked in for his first defensive play of the season, on 3rd down no less. Carolina goes 3-and-out on their first drive.
8:47-1st appearance for Shane Vereen since Week 1, he converts on third down with a catch. He should be a welcome addition to the Patriots offense.
8:53-42-yard catch by Steve Smith vs. Aqib Talib, he’s still got it.
8:56-Personal foul on Talib after he started fighting with Smith, haha did that just happen? Wrong time fellas and not the brightest idea by Talib.
8:59-I thought the Wildcat had been dead for years but apparently Carolina still uses it. Of course they get called for a false start the first time they tried to run it.
9:03-Newton throws a fade to the end zone, mostly missed by ESPN’s cameras. They did notice that Talib and Smith got into it again after the whistle.
9:04-9-yard TD throw from Newton to Brandon LaFell on 3rd down. The delayed blitz by New England didn’t work at all. 7-0 Panthers, Talib needs to get his head on straight or it could be a long night.
9:12-Patriots are moving it on a nice drive but trail the Panthers 7-0 after one quick quarter.
9:20-Carolina’s defense is outstanding but they are not helping themselves with a couple penalties on this drive by New England.
9:22-Just when you start to forget about Stevan Ridley’s fumble problems, he does something like that: cough one up in the red zone. Ugh.
9:25-Is it a rule that every Southern city has to feature an Elvis impersonator at football games? It seems a little played to this Northerner.
9:28-24-yard run by Newton, needless to say the Patriots haven’t seen anyone like him any QB like him this season.
9:31-Rough night for Talib who gets called for holding.
9:35-Patriots defense gets a stop and forces a 43-yard field goal by Graham Gano. Panthers up 10-0, time for the Patriots to get some points before halftime.
9:40-23-yard catch by Kenbrell Thompkins, remember him?
9:47-4th and 8, Pats pretended like they would go for it at the Carolina 24 but the Panthers didn’t buy it (and jump offside).
9:49-New England finally gets on the board with a 42-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. Panthers lead 10-3 late in the first half.
9:54-He might be clinically insane but Jon Gruden certainly knows his football: on the next play after he said Chandler Jones has to step up, he makes a sack.
10:10-Looks like Ridley has been benched to start the second half, yet again.
10:11-Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson is seriously hurt, rolling on the ground in pain but ESPN forgot to cut their onfield microphones off. They have to change that, nobody needs to hear it.
10:12-Johnson got leg-whipped in his knee by Patriots offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, Mike Tirico thinks it’ll be reviewed (for a fine) by the NFL.
10:18-9-yard touchdown catch by Rob Gronkowski ties it at 10. He dragged three Panthers the last yard or two into the end zone, needless to say Hooman or Matthew Mulligan aren’t making that identical play. 1st TD all season on the opening drive for the Pats in the second half.
10:25-14-yard scramble by Newton that probably no other QB in the NFL makes this season (since Michael Vick and RG3 aren’t at their peak mobility). He retreated 19 yards and shook off four different Patriots.
10:33-15-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Greg Olsen in the corner of the end zone. Panthers retake the lead 17-10 late in the third quarter. Great pass, Devin McCourty was a step behind and Newton put it right on the money where only Olsen could grab it.
10:41-New wrinkle on what to do when Ridley fumbles: he sat for a little while but now he’s back. Belichick always keeps us on our toes.
10:42-Patriots are down 17-10 after three quarters but they are starting out on another promising drive.
10:45-For a guy that’s been out for 10 weeks, Vereen looks great.
10:47-37-yard catch and run by Kenbrell Thompkins gets it down to the 1. Patriots quick snap it and Ridley runs it in for the tying score. Big answer by New England, this has turned out to be a good game.
10:51-Chandler Jones forces Newton into a sack by Rob Ninkovich. On the next play, Newton nearly throws a costly interception.
10:53-Amendola with maybe his first punt return of the season, 13 yards to Carolina’s 39.
10:59-LeGarrette Blount had been running it effectively, so naturally on 3rd-and-1 Josh McDaniels called for a play action pass that had no hope. Patriots settle for a 26-yard field goal by Gostkowski that barely squeaked through the goal post. First lead of the game for the Pats, 20-17 with 6:32 left in the fourth quarter.
11:06-New England still hasn’t adjusted to Newton scrambling on broken plays, this time it was for 15 yards on 3rd down.
11:11-Killer holding penalty by McCourty on Olsen, that gave the Panthers a 1st down on 3rd down.
11:17-I didn’t expect Ted Ginn Jr. to have the biggest play of the game-a 25-yard touchdown catch that put Carolina back ahead 24-20 with 59 seconds left.
11:23-Wow, 4th and 10 but Brady completes a 23-yard pass to Gronk. Timeout New England with 40 seconds left and the ball at their own 43.
11:26-10-yard catch and first down by Amendola, another Patriots timeout.
11:27-Beautiful throw by Brady to Vereen but he dropped the wheel route with Luke Kuechly in his face.
11:29-Aaron Dobson draws a pass interference call on Melvin White.
11:30-21-yard catch by Vereen gets it to the 25 with six seconds left. This is eerily similar to New England’s last-second win vs. New Orleans in October.
11:32-7-yard catch by Dobson to the 18.
11:33-Well that stinks, Robert Lester (any relation to Jon?) picks Brady off in the end zone to end the game. Kuechly held Gronk and the refs threw a flag just for fun I guess. It was underthrown so who knows if Gronk could have gotten to it? Still, another controversial ending for a Pats game this season. I thought they reached their quota already after the Jets debacle. Panthers win 24-20. Huge victory for that franchise.
Follow Metro Boston sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate