Panthers’ 1st MNF Game Since 2018
Comes With Multiple Television TwistsBy David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

The Carolina Panthers have not been featured often on the National Football League’s famous Monday Night Football platform, but they have a solid resume in those high-profile games, and they have an impressive track record while playing them at home.

As they head into tonight’s matchup (7:15 pm, ESPN/ESPN2) against NFC South rival New Orleans, which is their first Monday Night Football game of any kind since 2018, the Panthers have an all-time MNF record of 10-7, including 7-4 at home.

Panthers On Monday Night Football
(10-7 Overall, 7-4 Home, 3-3 Away)

Date, Opponent, Home/Away, Result

Sept. 29, 1997, 49ers, home, 21-34 (L)
Dec. 8, 1997, Cowboys, away, 23-13 (W)
Nov. 27, 2000, Packers, home, 31-14 (W)
Sept. 13, 2004, Packers, home, 14-24 (L)
Oct. 3, 2005, Packers, home, 32-29 (W)
Nov. 13, 2006, Buccaneers, home, 24-10 (W)
Dec. 4, 2006, Eagles, away, 24-27 (L)
Dec. 8, 2008, Buccaneers, home, 38-23, (W)
Sept. 28, 2009, Cowboys, away, 7-21 (L)
Nov. 26, 2012, Eagles, away, 30-22 (W)
Nov. 18, 2013, Patriots, home, 24-20 (W)
Nov. 10, 2014, Eagles, away, 21-45 (L)
Nov. 2, 2015, Colts, home, 29-26 (W)
Oct. 10, 2016, Buccaneers, home, 14-17 (L)
Dec. 19, 2016, Commanders, away, 26-15 (W)
Nov. 13, 2017, Dolphins, home, 45-21 (W)
Dec. 12, 2018, Saints, home, 9-12 (L)

The Panthers (0-1), who lost 24-10 to Atlanta in their opener, are trying to avoid an 0-2 start, both overall and in divisional games. The Saints (1-0) edged Tennessee, a non-divisional opponent, 16-15, in New Orleans last week. Elsewhere in the NFC South, both Tampa Bay and the Falcons have opened this season with 2-0 records.

While Monday Night Football has been around since 1970, tonight’s game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte will come with a modern-day twist. The Panthers-Saints tilt is part of a MNF doubleheader, along with the Cleveland-Pittsburgh game (8:15 pm, ABC/ESPN+).

Whereas most MNF doubleheaders have had an early (East Coast) game and a late (West Coast) game, tonight’s tilts will overlap for multiple hours. The primary MNF broadcasting crew (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Lisa Salters) will handle the Browns-Steelers game, while its secondary crew (Chris Fowler, Dan Orlovsky, Louis Riddick, Laura Rutledge) will call the Saints-Panthers matchup.

The MNF doubleheader concept started in 2006, the year ESPN took over the brand’s broadcasting rights, which had been exclusively with ABC from 1970-2005. (Disney has owned ABC since 1995 and became the majority owner of ESPN’s family of networks in 1996.) Beginning in 2020, some MNF games have been simulcast on ABC and ESPN.

ESPN and the NFL are in the first year of a recent (signed in 2021) 10-year contract extension, which will run through the 2033 season. That deal includes the expansion of Monday Night Football to 20 games per season, including — for the first time — three MNF doubleheaders.

After tonight, there will be MNF doubleheaders next Monday (Sept. 25) and on Dec. 11. The only week with no MNF game this year will be Week 18, the final week of the regular season, when a Monday night contest could be viewed as a competitive disadvantage (short week of preparation) for any team bound for the opening weekend of the playoffs.

It’s not difficult to guess ESPN executives’ thought process for the inclusion of the Panthers on this year’s MNF schedule. Carolina traded up in this year’s NFL draft to select Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner with the Crimson Tide, with the #1 overall selection.

In previous years, the Panthers’ team success often explained their MNF appearances. For example, all three examples of Carolina appearing on MNF multiple times in the same season (twice each in 1997, 2006 and 2016) immediately followed three of the best seasons in franchise history.

In 1996, the Panthers’ second year of NFL competition, they finished 12-4 and advanced to the NFC championship game under coach Dom Capers. In 2005, they were 11-5 and went to the NFC title game under coach John Fox. In 2015, they posted a 15-1 regular season and played in the Super Bowl, losing to Denver to complete an amazing campaign that included quarterback Cam Newton (the #1 overall NFL pick in 2011) winning the MVP award and coach Ron Rivera earning the coach of the year honor.