Panthers get win #2, beat Cardinals 19-12

The best of both scenarios happened today; the Panthers won their second game of the season and the Bengals won their third so Carolina remains in position to have the number one pick this April. Carolina’s game against Arizona was about what I expected to be; an ugly, low-scoring affair. Both offenses have a few game-breakers but are both led by two young QB’s and have plenty of holes. The Cardinals were struggling to move the ball for pretty much all of the first three quarters and it shows on the TOP comparison (Carolina had the ball for almost 37 minutes). It’s nice to Carolina leading in that category for a change because it’s been something Carolina’s been struggling with all year. It may have been against a week opponent, but it was good to see the Panthers get another win and for QB Jimmy Clausen to show some signs of improvement even with limited action.

After last week’s loss, Clausen apologized to Jon Beason for the offense’s ineffectiveness and said that he would work to improve it this week. Well, he sort of did. Clausen had what you could say was his best game as a Panther with a decent stat line of 13-19 141 yards TD and a rating of 107.6. Clausen definitely looked a lot more poised today and he more effective in reading the defense and moving the ball down field than in past weeks. Brandon LaFell is looking like a solid 3rd down target for him as they had a few nice plays. David Gettis also had a nice 29 yard reception early in the game. Both had 3 catches a piece, which was how many times they were targeted. There were some times where Clausen tried to force the ball to Steve Smith (targeted 6 times, only 2 catches) which is understandable given how dangerous he is but I would have liked to see him get the ball to Gettis and LaFell more if he was given the chance. His TD pass was a 16 yarder to a wide open Jeff King who was able to walk into the end zone. That was King’s first receiving TD of the season. In the preview I said that the Panthers running game can’t win games by themselves and while their offense was heavily based on the run today, the passing game made the plays when they had to despite Carolina only throwing it 19 times.

Like I mentioned earlier, the Panthers offense was relying heavily on running the ball. 45 rushing attempts compared to 19 passing and we were able to get 177 yards on the ground. Not as good as last week but still a very solid effort and it got the job done. The guy who did most of that work was Jonathan Stewart (27 car 137 yards) as he continues to have a very solid second half to the season. Despite fumbling problems he has done great being the primary back the past few weeks and hopefully it continues the next couple of weeks and into next year (assuming we don’t keep DeAngelo Williams). Mike Goodson didn’t get a lot of touches but had a decent outing in limited action. Fullback Tony Fiametta also saw a few carries on third and fourth and short situations and he got the job done with those. Speaking of which, it was great to see us go for it in those situations after settling for so many field goals early on, which leads me to my next problem.

The offense is moving the ball but they aren’t putting points on the board. Sure, 19 points will get the job done against Arizona but it’s not going to against better teams. I will take any kind of win at this point so I’m not complaining but the offense had great field position on about half of their drives today and had many chances to put the game out of reach but let the Cardinals hang around because they had to settle for field goals. A 2-12 team is going to have these problems, though and will take wins any way they can get them so I digress. I do give a lot of credit to the defense since they shut down Arizona for most of the game and did enough to win the game.

Remember how I said I was worried about the run defense being able to stop Tim Hightower? He had only 6 carries for 16 yards. Beanie Wells? 8 carries for 11 yards. So in short, my worries about the run defense were definitely proved wrong this week even though the Cardinals barely tried to run the ball anyway (17 carries). A lot of credit should go to Jon Beason, Nic Harris and James Anderson since they got into the backfield a lot and ended the Cards early rushing attempts. The pass rush also stepped up this game getting three sacks from Charles Johnson, Nic Harris and Greg Hardy, the latter also forcing a fumble. Johnson is continuing to earn his contract next year but constantly being a force off the end and getting his 10th sack of the season. Hardy playing well makes the loss of Everette Brown less painful. It was good that he had a nice game since he was MIA for the last couple of weeks. One of the keys to this game was getting pressure on John Skelton and making him uncomfortable and they did just that for most of the game.

Aside from Arizona’s surge in the 4th quarter, they were completely shut down through the air today. Captain Munnerlyn did a solid job of covering Larry Fitzgerald (until the 4th quarter) and prevented the Cardinals passing game from having any big plays. The much criticized Richard Marshall wasn’t too active today aside from allowing a huge Steve Breaston catch but he didn’t make any egregiously bad plays today. One standout was Sherrod Martin’s interception as he showed his ball-hawking skills which haven’t been seen much this year. He intercepted an overthrown Skelton pass intended for tight end Steven Spach and returned it inside the 20 yard line, which set up Carolina’s lone TD today. Robert McClain was also surprisingly decent at nickel back today.

It’s definitely good to get a win for a change despite there being many problems. I’m still not fully sold on Clausen but he made a step in the right direction today and made plays when he needed to. Everyone’s been saying that he was kind of stuck on the level he played during the Tampa Bay game and hasn’t gotten above that. Today, he definitely went up a level but not by much. Carolina was in conservative mode after they established a solid lead so he didn’t need to throw the ball 25+ times and that had a lot to do with it. If the offense can learn to finish drives off then that would be nice but that shows that there’s some obvious missing pieces there. Hopefully we can fix those in the offseason so that this team can start winning more games in future seasons.


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