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Thursday, January 2, 2014
Carolina fans losing wine and cheese tag

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Fans of the Carolina Panthers often have been called a "wine and cheese" crowd. You know, laid back, not the most rambunctious.

There have been games over the years, particularly when Pittsburgh and Green Bay are in Charlotte, that the visiting fans seem to outnumber the home fans.

But lately, Carolina fans have been out in full force supporting the NFC South champions (12-4). Here are a few examples:

Three-minute sellout: Three minutes after about 7,000 tickets for the Jan. 12 playoff game against Philadelphia, Green Bay or San Francisco went on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday, the game was a sellout. Meanwhile, Green Bay, Indianapolis and Cincinnati still had thousands of tickets available more than 24 hours after they went on sale.

Bad snap: With 31 seconds left in Sunday's 21-20 victory at Atlanta, the Falcons center blamed the crowd noise generated by a large contingent of Carolina fans for a botched snap that basically ended any chance of a rally. It was so loud that Carolina players said it felt like a home crowd. Center Ryan Kalil noted it was kind of like what he has seen at Bank of America Stadium in past years from visiting crowds.

Welcome home: Several hundred boisterous fans were waiting at the stadium when the Panthers returned home from Atlanta late Sunday night.

"The fans have always been phenomenal when we win late in the year here," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "[Teammates] were all pretty impressed with how many people were out there after this last game. I said wait until you win a playoff game and you come back.

"I remember the Super Bowl sendoff in '03 when we went down Tryon [Street] and the fans were out like crazy and workers were out on the tarmac at the airport. It's outstanding to know you have that much support from your fans."

As for the quick sellout for the team's first playoff game since 2008, Gross said, "They've been waiting a long time for us to put this product on the field. Our stadium is going to be a special place a week from Sunday."

...

Back in black: The team's website announced the Panthers will wear the black jersey and pants combination that was voted the greatest uniform in NFL history earlier this year. It will be the fourth time the team has used that combination. The most recent was three weeks ago in a 30-20 victory over the New York Jets.