Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Top Play No. 1: Ginn Touchdown vs. Cardinals

February 24, 2016
By Max Henson

Wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr.’s 22-yard touchdown run in the NFC Championship is the top play of 2015.

It was the biggest home game in franchise history; the first time the Panthers had hosted the conference title game.

And Ginn provided the spark that led to a dominant win over the Cardinals, his former team.

"I tried to go out and play ball, just trying to give them that energy," Ginn said, "and my team fed off me."

Ginn’s 32-yard punt return allowed Carolina to start a drive inside Arizona territory midway through the first quarter. Moments later, on second-and-3 from the 22-yard line, the Panthers dialed up a play they had used with success during the regular season.

Quarterback Cam Newton took a shotgun snap and faked a handoff to fullback Mike Tolbert. Newton drew the defense by moving forward like he was preparing to run before flipping the ball to Ginn, who raced into the backfield after being lined up wide to the right.

The play could have been stopped for a minimal gain, but Ginn slipped through safety Rashad Johnson’s tackle attempt as he neared the left sideline. It proved to be a catastrophic miss.

Ginn ran down the sideline for 10 yards, then looked up and saw six Cardinals closing in. At this point, all 11 defenders are in hot pursuit. So Ginn improvised, juking away from linebacker Kevin Minter at the 10-yard line and sprinting back across the field.

With Ginn’s elite speed, there was no catching him. It wasn’t supposed to be easy against the swarming Cardinals defense, but Ginn made this look easy.

Wide receiver Philly Brown sealed off cornerback Jerraud Powers at the 4-yard line and Newton arrived to escort Ginn across the goal line for a 10-0 lead.

Bank of America Stadium erupted and so did the Panthers, who overwhelmed Arizona with a series of explosive plays to build a 34-7 lead.

It all started with Ginn, who had a point to prove after the Cardinals cut him following the Wild Card loss at Carolina a year prior. In addition to his mesmerizing 22-yard score, Ginn received high praise for a 75-yard sprint to chase down Patrick Peterson and prevent an interception return for a touchdown.

"I felt like deep down inside that (Arizona) felt like I couldn't do it," Ginn said.

Ginn was given the game ball by head coach Ron Rivera, and now he’s taking home Top Play of the Year.

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