Then quarterback Cam Newton saw Edwards break open on first down, floated a pass that Edwards caught in full stride and by the time he was finally taken down, Edwards had gone from one 9-yard line to the other, an 82-yard reception that set up the touchdown that allowed the Panthers to end a five-game losing streak.
"Man, that was phenomenal for Armanti," said receiver Steve Smith, who threw a crushing downfield block on the play.
"They threw the ball to him and I was running like I had the ball. It's a guy that comes to work every day, he doesn't say hardly anything. He does his job. He's a team player, whether on scout team, throwing the ball or running routes. He's learning his craft. It came to fruition."
It looked natural. It looked easy. But looks, Smith said, can be deceiving.
"He ran a perfect route. The ball was thrown up there. He caught it," Smith said. "That's the hardest catch to ever make. A lot of people think a one-hand catch or this or that. The hardest catch to ever make for a wide receiver is when you're wide open and no one is around."
Edwards said he had been in for three plays before he made the game-changing catch. He's so quiet that offensive tackle Jordan Gross said he didn't realize Edwards had been in the huddle until he saw him catch Newton's pass and sprint downfield.
While talk shows and message boards have been cluttered with chatter about whether the Panthers made a mistake in trading a second-round draft choice in 2011 to draft Edwards in the third round in 2010, he has quietly done his work. When the Panthers drafted punt return specialist Joe Adams last spring, it seemed a signal that Edwards' time was running out.
Instead, Edwards helped deliver a victory to a team desperately in need of one.
"It's great," Edwards said when asked about his long catch. "I've known how to be patient, wait my turn. When my number is called, I've got to do my best to help the team."
It wasn't lost on his teammates.
"Not only is it big for him, it's big for us," Newton said. "That game was right on the cusp of someone making a play. Armanti's number was called. He was not even hesitating. He stepped right in."
Head coach Ron Rivera said he has talked with Edwards about his situation, praising him for his willingness to prepare as he does while knowing he may not play. Edwards had a good week in practice, Rivera said, making a couple of diving catches that caught everyone's attention.
"I've been feeling good about it all season," Edwards said. "It's just a matter of waiting until my number is called. I go to practice every day and practice like I'm starting."
As Edwards was leaving the locker room early Sunday evening, tight end Greg Olsen was talking about what the Appalachian State legend had done.
"It was huge," Olsen said. "That was probably the play of the game. We're backed up. The momentum is teetering a little bit there.
"He runs a great route, Cam delivers it right on point and that was huge. I'm happy for him. He's a hard worker. He doesn't say a lot. He comes each day and keeps preparing and biding his time. That's all you can ask."
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