Brandon LaFell had six catches for 91 yards on Sunday. (Photo by John Clark)
CHARLOTTE – David Gettis caught the first two touchdown passes of his career in Sunday’s 23-20 Carolina Panthers’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
But a 4-yard dump pass for a first down with four minutes left in the game may have been his biggest catch of the game. It’s because it showed Gettis the Panthers still had confidence in him after he’d dropped a potential game-tying touchdown pass 1 1-2 minutes earlier.
Gettis, a 6th-round pick out of Baylor, and Brandon LaFell, a 3rd-round pick out of LSU, led the Panthers’ receivers on a day in which All-Pro receiver Steve Smith was limited with cramps in the second half.
Perhaps Sunday’s play was an aberration, but maybe it’s a sign that Gettis and LaFell will fill what has been an elusive No. 2 receiving position for Carolina.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence now,” LaFell said. “We know Smitty’s going to make his plays. Making plays like we did today really gives us an all-time high.”
That confidence clearly sagged for Gettis late in the fourth quarter – or after he dropped what would’ve been a 16-yard touchdown pass from Matt Moore on a surprising Panthers’ gamble on fourth-and-nine with 5:34 to play and San Francisco leading 20-13.
“That’s a play that I could’ve made,” Gettis said. “I thought I ran a good route and he put it right where I want it. I just didn’t catch it.”
Predictably, Gettis was down after the mistake. But LaFell took it upon himself to boost up his colleague.
“I couldn’t let him sit there and beat himself up,” LaFell said of his brief pep talk to Gettis. “I just told him, ‘All the great ones drop passes. Jerry Rice dropped passes. Cris Carter dropped passes. But it’s what you do after you drop a pass. Don’t let it linger on. Just go out and make a play.’”
After the Panthers’ defense forced a three-and-out possession, Carolina had the ball back on its own 37 with 4:30 to play. After LaFell caught a 9-yard pass, Moore went right back to Gettis, completing a 4-yard first-down throw at midfield.
“Thankfully, I got a second chance to help us win a game,” Gettis said.
Seven plays later, Gettis came up even bigger, catching a 23-yard scoring throw in the left corner of the end zone with 1:53 to play. The score allowed the Panthers to tie the 49ers at 20.
After Richard Marshall intercepted San Francisco backup quarterback David Carr’s pass at the Panthers 43 less than a minute later, it was LaFell’s turn to step up. LaFell caught Moore’s 35-yard throw down the right sideline to give Carolina a first down at the 49ers 22. Four plays later, John Kasay booted a game-winning 37-yard field goal with 39 seconds left.
“It was a real big catch for me,” LaFell said. “When Smitty went down, I told the coach, ‘Just give me the opportunity.’ So that’s what I was thinking about, making a play for my team.”
Does this mean Gettis and LaFell are solving the dilemma over the Panthers’ No. 2 receiver?
“It’s our job to go out there and make plays,” Gettis said when asked that question. “As far as the speculation about the No. 2 receiver, that’s your job. I just go out there and play.”
To contact Richard Walker, email