CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It was one of the more bizarre plays Carolina Panthers coach George Seifert admitted he's ever seen.
On third-and-three from the Atlanta 42 late in the contest, Jamal Anderson took a handoff, ran over a tackler and appeared headed for the end zone. However, Carolina safety Eugene Robinson knocked the ball loose and the ball bounced down the sidelines toward the end zone.
Doug Evans scooped up the fumble near the goal line, but his momentum took him into the end zone and out of bounds, resulting in a safety for the Falcons, extending a three-point Atlanta lead to 15-10.
According to referee Larry Nemmers, when Evans recovered the fumble and "carried the ball into the end zone on his own accord, then, of course, it's a safety if he doesn't get out."
But Nemmers added that if Evans had not gone out bounds and if he had gone down in the end zone, the play still would have resulted in a safety.Once Evans got possession of the ball with both feet in bounds and carried the ball into the end zone, it was his responsibility to get out.
Had Evans stopped and run out of bounds before reaching the end zone, Carolina would have had possession of the football.
Evans admitted after the game that he thought if he had momentum on a fumble, the ruling would be the same as if he had intercepted the pass.
"I wasn't trying to go out of bounds," Evans said. "I was just trying to maintain the football without juggling it because I wanted to have possession of it before I went out of bounds. I thought once I hit the ground in the end zone, it was pretty much like an interception. Once you're down, the offense takes it at the 20-yard line.
"I was thinking rather than getting tackled on the two 2-yard line, I could get the offense on the 20. I guess I rolled out a little too much."
Seifert said he hoped Evans' knees had touched the ground before he went into the end zone.
"We would have then maintained possession," Seifert said. "That is what they saw upstairs. That was our shot."
Anderson, who finished the game with 97 yards rushing and a touchdown, said he was relieved when the play was ruled a safety. With 2:12 left in the contest and Atlanta getting the ball back with a five-point cushion, Anderson said the play officially ended any Carolina comeback.
"We get the ball back and the game is over," he said.