Final Score: Panthers 24, Patriots 20

Last updated: Nov 19, 2013 10:40 AM

Denver/KC was billed as the game of the year, or even among the best of all-time, based solely upon the teams' W/L records.

But in reality, these were the squads ranked 3rd and 16th in overall efficiency according to Brian Burke's rankings.

In other words, it was something of a mismatch, and it played out precisely that way (not that these things always do).

Monday night's showdown between the rising Panthers and always contending Patriots turned out the better matchup, and may have been the season's best game to date.

Cam Newton (271 yards, three touchdowns) outdueled Tom Brady (299 yards, one TD) in leading Carolina (7-3) to a 24-20 victory over New England (7-3) for their sixth straight win.

The Patriots will host the Broncos Sunday night on SNF.

Final Play

The game ended in controversial fashion, as a penalty flag was picked up by the officials after Brady's last-second throw was intercepted in the end zone.

With the ball in the air, linebacker Luke Kuechly clearly made significant contact with intended receiver Rob Gronkowski, and a flag was quickly thrown.

The officials huddled up, determined that the pass had been uncatchable, and thus ended the game.

Indeed it was uncatchable, but probably not in the sense that it was a clean play.

Rather, it was uncatchable for Gronkowski, because he was being interfered with by Kuechly.

Brady lit up head ref Clete Blakeman as the two exited the field, but was more reserved speaking with the press afterward.

Blakeman said his crew stood by the call, but his explanation was really just a bunch of insufficient ass-covering.

Bill Belichick did his usual mumbling and grumbling, not that one could blame him.

The Pats-inspired shadenfreude was, of course, strong.

Smith/Talib

One of the night's best substories was the contentious battle between legendary Panthers wideout/trash talker Steve Smith and Pats corner/punk Aqib Talib.

Their bout was mostly characterized by Talib taking cheap shots at Smith and playing beyond the whistle, but the elder player got the last laugh.

After the game, Albert Breer asked Smith about what had happened between him Talib, and, in epic fashion, the receiver responded,

I don’t know. You gonna ask him, ’cause he didn’t finish the game. Ice up, son.

Smith also had something for Stevan Ridley:

Smith: 22 had something to say to me on the field; a little youngster.

Andrea Kremer: What did he say?

Smith: You know, just telling me who he is. So I just had to establish the rules and regulations of the game.

Kremer: Which were?

Smith: Which was, 89. Bottom line. That's why he's going home.

Ice up, son.

The big question here is whether Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker will stand up to Talib like Smith did. Not sure they have it in them...

Johnson/Cannon

Carolina avoided disaster when Charles Johnson went down with an apparent knee injury, only to return later in the game.

Johnson had destroyed Pats lineman Marcus Cannon, who responded with a classless leg whip.

While Cannon apparently apologized to the Panthers' star, he figures to be hit with either a fine or suspension, and of course, the latter could impact Broncos/Patriots.

Cam Newton

With all those storylines, one could almost forget about Newton, except he did this - running 75.8 spectacular yards to gain 14.

He also crafted a beautiful game-winning drive, converting two third downs with his legs and throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn.

Cam had a 125.4 QB rating last night - the fourth time during Carolina's six-game winning streak that he's had a rating of 111 or higher.

Links

Before the game, New England activated RB Shane Vereen from short-term IR; he carried 13 times for 48 yards and a one-yard touchdown.

Doug Farrar and Ben Stockwell analyze the game; Bill Barnwell says the Patriots lost the game well before the final play; Peter King isn't buying Clete Blakeman's explanation either.

As Mike Reiss notes, allowing eight conversions on 11 third down attempts doesn't quite qualify as honing up to face Peyton Manning & Company.

Jay Busbee says Cam is finally playing up to the level of his ego.

Ashley Fox credits Sean McDermott for the rise of Carolina's defense; Denver had been close to hiring McDermott in January of 2011, before they ended up with Dennis Allen.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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