If there was a time to turn the season around it was this week for the Carolina Panthers. Sitting at 1-5, the Panthers needed to get moving in the right direction and a three game home-stand against some of the lower teams in the NFL set up perfect for the Panthers, they just had to capitalize.
And capitalize they did as the Panthers picked up their second win of the season today as they took down the Washington Redskins 33-20. It was easily the best game the Panthers played all season. The team won the turnover battle, ran a balanced offense and Cam Newton kept doing what he has all season, throwing for 256 yards on 18-23 passing, throwing for one touchdown and then rushing for another touchdown.His favorite target was once again Steve Smith who went over 100 yards receiving for the fourth time this season as Smith caught seven passes for 143 yards.
But the big news was the defense. They stopped the run, giving up just 92 rushing yards, while forcing three turnovers. This game was easily the most complete game the defense has played all year. I know it was against the Redskins with John Beck at quarterback but still a win is a win and the defense played much better. Linebacker James Anderson led the defense as he finished the game with 12 tackles and a sack.
Now with Newton’s second win under his belt he and the Panthers have a chance to get close to .500. Sitting at 2-5, the Panthers have the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans coming to Charlotte over the next two games. Both of these games are very winnable and the Panthers could easily be sitting at a respectable 4-5 by week ten.
This team still has some problems. They commit way to many penlites and make too many mental mistakes but this team is going to be good. They are young, have fun out there and are really fun to watch. If the defense can catch up to the offense, this Panthers squad could be very great.
The first half wasn’t much for scoring as the two teams pretty much traded field goals back and forth. The Panthers got on the scoreboard first when Cam Newton drove the team down the field on the opening drive. The Panthers got inside the ten yard line but a false start penalty halted the drive and the Panthers had to settle for a field goal.
The Redskins tacked on a field goal early in the second quarter to knot the game up at three but the Panthers answered right back. Once again Newton led the offense into the redzone with a mixture of running plays and some big passing plays but the offense once again stalled at the 11 yard line, ending with another Olindo Mare field goal.
Late in the half the Panthers retook the lead when Captain Munnerlynn forced a fumble on Jabar Gaffney. Linebacker James Anderson jumped on it, giving the offense solid field position with just 17 seconds to go. Newton and the offense failed to move the ball much and for the third time in the half the Panthers settled for another Mare field goal, this one from 45 yards out, giving the Panthers the 9-6 lead at the half.
The Panthers came out hot in the second half. The defense forced a quick punt after a James Anderson sack on third down. Then the offense struck quickly on a two play touchdown drive. First Newton found Brandon LaFell on a 37 yard pass play. Then Newton took it in himself pretty much untouched on the outside for a 16-yard touchdown run giving the Panthers the 16-6 lead. That was Newton’s seventh rushing touchdown of the season, which breaks the Panthers franchise record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.
But the Redskins came firing back scoring there on touchdown. Beck drove the Skins down the field using his tight ends heavily, finally capping off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run by Beck to cut the deficit back to just three points.
Panthers responded though. Newton found Steve Smith on a big 33-yard catch and then the running backs did the rest, ending with a Jonathan Stewart 2-yard touchdown run, giving the Panthers the 23-13 lead.
The Panthers padded their lead late in the forth when Newton found Brandon LaFell for a 2-yard score, giving the Panthers a 30-13 lead.
A Chris Gamble interception late in the game sealed the deal for the Panthers and gave the team it’s second win of the season.