Nick Folk’s 36-yard field goal gave the New York Jets a 30-28 victory over the Carolina Panthers, but the game’s real star was Super Cam Newton. For the first two plays of the second half, the Panthers quarterback completed 8-of-8 passes for 75 yards before taking a snap off the board. The latter stand — in which Newton reacted to escaping the end zone and throwing to Kelvin Benjamin for the game-tying touchdown — may have kept his team from returning to the divisional round of the playoffs.
Newton has grown accustomed to sharing the spotlight with his teammates this season, as they have led the Panthers to the best record in the NFC, and this week, Newton took the path to glory himself. The Panthers claimed the first postseason victory of Newton’s career with two plays he made from the two-minute warning of the first half. Newton carried the ball twice for 33 yards. On the second of those, he launched a 67-yard bomb to Devin Funchess, who broke a tackle on his way to the end zone, despite Benjamin missing.
That was Funchess second touchdown of the day. Despite being an added incentive to beat his former team, Newton is rooting for Funchess to win the NFL receiving title. When asked about Newton’s two receptions during the broadcast, the Panthers’ head coach, Ron Rivera, said it was “unbelievable” that Newton “is going to be there next year, helping out the same guys.” For the time being, Newton is even helping out his own kicker, Ryan Succop, by completing 6-of-7 passes for a total of 114 yards and two touchdowns in a halftime performance that once again raised questions about Succop’s abilities.
For the Jets, their wild-card victory was historic for another reason: it took 50 years for them to advance out of the first round of the playoffs. The Jets were 5-12 in 1963, while the Panthers were 3-13. Wednesday night’s win, which saw New York create the same kind of momentum they had in the season opener, may finally bring the franchise a playoff victory.
If not, there are plenty of opportunities for the Jets to make another playoff appearance. This season, with Saquon Barkley, Sam Darnold and perhaps the league’s most dynamic offense, will be anything but a long journey back to the postseason.