Panthers rookie WR David Gettis was wide open. QB Matt Moore threw him the perfect ball. With 5:34 to go, the game-tying TD was about to land in Gettis' arms.
But he dropped it.
It was the type of play you'd expect from a rookie. With all eyes on Gettis, who already had a TD earlier in the game, Panthers fans saw their first win of the season vanish, momentarily, when Gettis dropped the easiest TD pass he might ever get.
They say it's how you respond that matters. Well, Gettis responded in a big way.
With 1:53 to go, covered closely on the play, Gettis made a great catch in the back of the endzone, redeeming himself and tying the game. An interception and a John Kasay field goal later, the Panthers had their first victory of the season. Gettis turned a haunting rookie mistake into his best game in the NFL.
Gettis joins rookie WR Brandon LaFell in the Panthers' WR corps. With Jimmy Clausen at QB, there was not much of a passing game. But Moore returned in Week Seven, and both rookies shined, even with star WR Steve Smith back from injury. Gettis went 8-125-2, and LaFell was 6-91 on the game.
Neither one has the numbers nor potential in the Panthers' offense yet to make the Rookie Meter, but another big game could gain them recognition, especially without many top rookie receivers this season. Gettis jumped all the way to fifth among rookies in receiving yards, while LaFell is 10th.
1. Rams QB Sam Bradford (first round, first overall)
Last week's ranking: 1
Bradford has now completed back-to-back games without throwing an interception, after having thrown at least one pick in each of the Rams' first five games. With RB Steven Jackson healthy and the Rams not necessarily playing from far behind, Bradford's passing attempts have also gone down the last two weeks. In the loss, Bradford was only 13-of-26 for 126 yards, but he tossed two TDs.
2. Lions RB Jahvid Best (1, 30)
Last week's ranking: 2
Luckily for Best, Ryan Mathews is close to falling off the Meter, so he still sits comfortably in the second spot after a bye in Week Seven. Best leads all rookies with five total TDs and 534 total yards. He also has the benefit of QB Matthew Stafford returning on Sunday, and that could only help his numbers the rest of the way.
3. Buccaneers WR Mike Williams (4, 101)
Last week's ranking: 4
Williams took the overall rookie lead in receiving yards, passing Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez after going 5-82 against the Rams, including a big catch to set up the game-winning TD. And he could have had an even bigger game, being targeted 11 times. Williams is tied for the rookie lead with three receiving TDs and is second in receiving yards per game with 60.8, behind Bengals WR Jordan Shipley.
4. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh (1, 2)
Last week's ranking: 5
Suh jumps up a spot without even playing, thanks to Mathews' poor outing on Sunday. The top candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, Suh has 4½ sacks on the season, the most among rookies. We'll see how his season continues as teams work to double-team the No. 2 overall pick, but he has proved his worth so far this season.
5. Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez (4, 113)
Last week's ranking: 6
Will any team find a way to shut this guy down? Whether he is lined up in the slot or on the line, Hernandez continues to find himself open. He led the Patriots on Sunday, going 5-54, and leads the team with 355 receiving yards for the season. The one thing that will hurt Hernandez's chances of being the first tight end to ever win the hardware is that he isn't targeted much in the red zone. He has zero TDs while fellow Patriots rookie TE Rob Gronkowski has three among just nine catches.
6. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (1, 24)
Last week's ranking: 9
Bryant took back another punt for a touchdown in Monday night's loss to the Giants, a 93-yarder. Devin Hester is the only other player in the league with two punt-return TDs this season. Bryant added two 15-yard receiving TDs in the fourth quarter, finishing 4-54-2 on seven targets. It was Bryant's best game of the season, and he clicked with backup QB Jon Kitna. With starter Tony Romo out 6-8 weeks, we'll have to see what that does to the entire Cowboys offense, including Bryant.
7. Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (1, 14)
Last week's ranking: NR
Thomas hauled in his fourth interception of the season on Sunday, the most among rookies and tied for the second-most in the league. He had three tackles and two passes defensed, as well, in the Seahawks' win, which put them in first place in the NFC West. Thomas is playing the way the Seahawks were hoping when they drafted him, as he is a solid ball hawk and center-field-type player in the secondary.
8. Eagles FS Nate Allen (2, 37)
Last week's ranking: 8
The September defensive rookie of the month got burned on Sunday when he had to cover Titans WR Kenny Britt. Allen lost out to Britt on deep corner routes, but the rookie is still putting together a nice season, and the Eagles had enough confidence in him to switch him to the hot Britt. Allen has three picks, six passes defensed and 31 tackles this season, including a sack.
9. Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki (3, 93)
Last week's ranking: 7
The Iowa grad had his second consecutive quiet week, going 3-43 on three targets against a lackluster Jaguars passing defense. The Chiefs did not throw the ball much, and Dwayne Bowe's resurgence is taking targets away from Moeaki. He is still one of the top rookies in receiving with 21-236-2 this season, but big games from Bryant, Shipley and Gettis could result in Moeaki starting to slip if he continues seeing fewer targets.
10. Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (1, 12)
Last week's ranking: 3
The Rookie of the Year favorite in the preseason is close to slipping off this Meter, but Chargers head coach Norv Turner would make you think otherwise, so we'll keep him at No. 10. Mathews had just 15 yards rushing on eight carries against the Patriots in Week Eight and gave way to Darren Sproles for much of the second half. Turner attributed that move to Sproles being the veteran as the Chargers played catch-up, but we have yet to see Mathews come anywhere close to exploding onto the scene.
On the cusp (listed alphabetically)
Jaguars DT Tyson Alualu (1, 10)
Chiefs FS Eric Berry (1, 5)
Panthers WR David Gettis (6 ,198)
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (2, 42)
Saints RB Chris Ivory (undrafted)
Raiders MLB Rolando McClain (1, 8)
Chiefs WR-RS Dexter McCluster (2, 36)
Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey (1, 18)
Bengals WR Jordan Shipley (3, 84)
Browns FS T.J. Ward (2, 38)