Steve Smith's latest dazzling catch saves Panthers Print
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Monday, 01 December 2008 10:58
NFL Headline News

 CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -John Fox is no fan of lists and shies away from comparing things, so the question stumped him.
The Carolina Panthers coach was asked Monday where Steve Smith's back-arching, over-the-head grab in the snow in Green Bay a day earlier ranks in Smith's overflowing list of eye-popping plays.
Fox started to bring up some of the other remarkable, leaping grabs and tackle-breaking runs after catches he's seen from the 5-foot-9 Smith, but quickly gave up.
``That's what he does,'' Fox said. ``And he does it very well.''
Smith's 54-yard catch set up DeAngelo Williams' fourth 1-yard touchdown run of the game with 1:30 left Sunday, giving the Panthers an improbable 35-31 victory. It kept Carolina (9-3) tied with Tampa Bay atop the NFC South and stunned the Lambeau Field crowd.
``That's the great Steve Smith,'' defensive end Julius Peppers said. ``He does that. He does those things. We see that all the time.''
ctober, Smith seemed to defy gravity and physics.
How did he get free from Charles Woodson, one of the game's top cornerbacks? Did he get away with a little shove? How was he able to grab that ball from behind his head, then not drop it when he fell to the turf?
``It's probably a catch that none of you guys can make,'' Smith told reporters after the game.
And it wasn't even supposed to happen that way.
After the Panthers' struggling defense held the Packers to a tie-breaking field goal with 1:57 left, Mark Jones returned the kickoff to the Carolina 45.
Jake Delhomme began what would be his 12th career game-winning drive in the final 2 minutes by breaking the huddle with a play designed as a short pass to Muhsin Muhammad, who was being covered by cornerback Al Harris
But the second option was Smith, and Delhomme told him in the huddle to not stop running his deep route.
``The way they lined up, I thought I was going to get Moose on a slant,'' Delhomme said. ``Al did a fantastic job. When I went to see and kind of look at the safety and Steve together, Steve had his head cocked down and he was running.''
As Delhomme cocked his arm for the deep ball, it almost looked like he was throwing it up for grabs. Smith had two defenders on him, and a linebacker was also close enough to get involved.
by turning back and getting free from Woodson, who thought Smith shoved him to create separation.
There was no penalty flag as Smith leaped. Smith grabbed the ball while it was behind his head, with Woodson behind him. Smith held on as he crashed to the ground, then got up and gained 5 more yards before he was tackled by linebacker Brandon Chillar at the Green Bay 1.
``It was a great throw by Jake,'' Smith said. ``He felt comfortable enough throwing me the ball. The offensive line did a great job blocking it up, you know, and I just had to catch the ball.''
Sure, nothing to it.
``He made a fantastic play and he wants to be in those situations,'' Delhomme said.
Smith finished with four catches for 105 yards, all in the second half. In the past two games he has 273 yards receiving. Through Sunday's games, the three-time Pro Bowl pick ranked sixth in the league with 958 yards receiving despite being suspended for the first two games after breaking teammate Ken Lucas' nose in training camp.
``This is a dream come true,'' Smith said on making the key play at Lambeau. ``Be a wide receiver, play in this stadium and have a good catch, so this is a boyhood dream. But we take this win with a grain of salt and we work on Tampa Bay now.''
The Panthers needed the win to keep pace with the surging Buccaneers, who visit Carolina next Monday night in the Panthers' most important regular-season game since they last made the playoffs in 2005.
``There are a lot of people who are fighting for their playoff lives, and we're one of them,'' Fox said.
But they're in much better shape after No. 89's latest spectacular play.
``Jake threw it up and, I'm not the tallest guy, but I got to go and attack the ball,'' Smith said. ``That's what I did and it worked out.''
 

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