Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, November 14, 2021 9:05 pm

Panthers 34, Cardinals 10

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 9:05 pm
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If there weren’t going to be butts in stadium seats for next week’s Panthers home game against the Washington Football Team before, there will be now.

In limited action in his first appearance at QB for the Panthers since Week 2 of the 2019 season, Cam Newton ran for one touchdown and threw to Robby Anderson for another. The plays were sandwiched between a Cardinals fumble forced by Hasaan Reddick, a turnover on downs, and a Cardinals interception and, with a Zane Gonzalez field goal, put the Panthers up 17-0 before the Cardinals, 8-1 coming into this game, even knew what was going on. (Gonzalez hit all four of his attempts today. Can I say what a pleasure it is not to have every Panthers field goal be an occasion for drama?)

Newton would touch the ball only a couple more times, but his impact put the league on notice: This team, with Newton (at least in short-yardage situations) and a fully healthy RB Christian McCaffrey, is not the team that lost five of its last six and lay down and died the past few weeks. Prior to this game, the Panthers had scored one touchdown in 12 quarters. Today, they scored twice in under 12 minutes and cruised to victory, evening their record at 5-5.

In fairness, Arizona QB1 Kyler Murray is still out with an injury. But Colt McCoy ran that team’s offense creditably last week. Certainly, there was no indication that the Cardinals would roll over the way they did.

McCaffrey looked like his hamstring wasn’t bothering him: He got 23 touches (13 rushes for 95 yards, 10 catches for 66 yards) and was pretty much uncontainable on the outside.

But this win was a complete team win. Even the O-line, arguably the league’s worst, played well today, with Pat Elflein replacing the injured Matt Paradis at center, and at one point the Panthers had accumulated 16 first downs to the Cardinals’ three. The defense, which came into the game second in the league overall, was ferocious, allowing the Cards only 149 yards, forcing three turnovers on downs, and garnering four sacks, with Reddick getting 1.5, to go with their interception and fumble recovery.

The Panthers return home next Sunday against Washington, whose coach, Ron Rivera, and general manager, Marty Hurney, held those same positions with Carolina when the team drafted Newton first overall in 2011. Bank of America stadium will be packed, and I can’t even imagine the energy it will contain when Newton, the 2015 MVP who led the Panthers to a Super Bowl that year, takes the field. The team still likes P.J. Walker in a backup role, and he was 22-for-29 today for 167 yards, but his interception was ugly and probably sealed his fate as the starter.

As I said a couple of days ago, I don’t know what’s going to happen with this team. But they would get a wild-card slot at 5-5 if the season ended today, and today all three of their divisional rivals lost. The Panthers play Miami after Washington, then get a bye before their last five games of the season. They will play divisional rivals in four of those games, so after the bye their fate could be very much in their own hands.

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