Week 15 in the NFL saw more than the normal share of blowouts and the Carolina Panthers’ game at San Diego was no exception. The only surprising thing is that it was the first such game that fell in favor of the Panthers this season instead of against it.
The Panthers were in complete control of the game from the outset – for once – against the sinking ship that is the San Diego Chargers. Carolina never trailed and led at halftime, 24-0. The second half was a mere formality as the two teams exchanged touchdowns before the game ended. The game also officially eliminated the Chargers from the playoffs, as if that were ever really in question given how the team has performed since having a fast start in September.
The Panthers started the scoring with a 13 play 80-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yd TD slam by the team’s battering ram, Mike Tolbert. The drive consumed six and a half minutes.
He added another similar run in the first quarter to make it 14-0 after a Charger turnover at their own 21 yard line, but the Panthers weren’t finished in quarter number one.
In one of the game’s most electrifying plays, DeAngelo Williams took a short pass from Cam Newton, split two defenders, and couldn’t be caught as he raced 45 yards to the end zone to put the Panthers up, 21-0. It was at least the third short pass that DeAngelo has taken to the house this season and proved he still has every bit of the speed, agility and quickness that made him a first-round draft pick in 2006.
Graham Gano added a field goal in the second quarter and Steve Smith caught a 4-yard TD pass in the third to make the score 31-0.
San Diego added a TD from Phillip Rivers to future Hall of Fame TE Antonio Gates to avoid being shut out.
Once again, Cam Newton refused to turn over the football but had 2 TD passes – DeAngelo’s catch and run plus the short one to Smith. A fumble by Williams was Carolina’s only turnover. The Chargers’ QB, Rivers, didn’t throw a pick but lost two fumbles as the Panthers’ front four spent much of the day either pressuring Rivers or being in the backfield in general.
Newton bested Rivers 232-121 in passing yardage while Cam’s team overran lightning, 155-70. DeAngelo had 93 on 22 carries. TaKeo Spikes led the Chargers with 10 tackles while Thomas Davis had the same number for Carolina.
Cam was sacked only twice while the veteran but less mobile Rivers was sacked six times and spent pretty much the entire game under pressure. The Panthers played a complete game as the defense only gave up 164 total yards – by far their best outing of the season. DEs Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson had a pair of sacks each.
The Panthers really had all phases going for them, being able to dictate the pace with the early big lead. They ran it a few more times than they threw it, and part of their game is the screen pass to those very talented backs in Williams and Tolbert. Someone, please tell me if there’s a more different combo of “thunder and lighting” in a backfield than those two. Their styles couldn’t be much different.
Running the ball wasn’t something Cam Newton did much of in gaining those 155 yards. He had 7…but then again when you’ve got a big lead early, he wasn’t asked to.
I love it when a game plan comes together!