'95 Panthers

'95 Panthers

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The Carolina Panthers made a big splash on the NFL scene during its inaugural season of 1995. It all started with a good omen when the Panthers won its inaugural preseason game.

Carolina defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 20-14, in the 1995 AFC-NFC Hall of Fame Game in Canton. In doing so, the Panthers became the first expansion team to win its first ever game. There were plenty more expansion firsts to come for the new team of the Carolinas.


LB Sam Mills had team-high 130 tackles.

The Panthers opened its first regular season with a trip to Atlanta to face the Falcons. In a thrilling debut, the team stunned the NFL by nearly knocking off the Falcons. Despite a valiant effort, the Panthers fell in overtime, 23-20.

Four more losses followed for the new team – a pair of lopsided games against the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams, and two close ones versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears. Then, the team was able to put it all together. Carolina reeled off four straight victories to become the first expansion team ever to win four in a row.  

The streak began when the Panthers claimed Win #1 with a 26-15 victory over the New York Jets on October 15, 1995. A stellar performance by the Panthers defense helped the team into the win column. Linebacker Sam Mills supplied one of the great plays of the year when he picked off a Bubby Brister pass and raced 36 yards for a touchdown at the end of the first half. Placekicker John Kasay helped the cause as he connected on four field goals.

The following week, the Panthers played host to the New Orleans Saints. Once again, the Panthers defense fueled the attack. After playing to a 3-3 tie in the first half, Carolina picked off three consecutive Jim Everett passes. The Panthers converted the last two interceptions into touchdowns en route to a convincing 20-3 win over the Saints.


Mark Carrier had a team-leading 66 catches for 1,002 yards in 1995.

Next, the team took to the road as they faced the New England Patriots at Foxboro Stadium. Running back Derrick Moore rushed 28 times for 119 yards and rookie quarterback Kerry Collins passed for 309 yards and 2 TDs. Kasay connected on a 29-yard field goal in overtime to give the team its first sudden-death victory. The Panthers became the first expansion team to win three straight games.

In Game 9, the Panthers traveled to the west coast to take on the defending Super Bowl champions San Francisco 49ers. The defense rose to the occasion one more time. The Panthers defensive unit forced five turnovers including three inside their own five-yard-line. In the end, the Panthers left with a 13-7 victory marking the first time in league history that an expansion team had beaten the defending world champions.

Furthermore, the Panthers record stood at 4-5 which marked just the third time ever a team rebounded to improve to 4-5 after losing its first five games of the season.

From here on out, the Panthers alternated wins and losses to finish the year at a respectable 7-9. It was the best record by any expansion team in league history.

The Panthers first season helped solidify its fan base but perhaps more importantly, it laid the foundation for the team’s future success. The following year, the Panthers won the NFC Western Division with a 12-4 record and advanced to the NFC championship game.

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