Apparently the Carolina Panthers made contact with Marty McFly and Doc Brown over the bye week…
Eight sacks. Two turnovers. A defensive touchdown. Only one pass completed against the Carolina Panthers defense over 20 yards. Twenty-four yards rushing allowed. A 24-7 halftime lead.
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For Halloween, the Panthers are going as Marty McFly in “Back to the Future“.
A dominant performance following the bye week gives fans hope of a much needed turnaround following the dismal 1-5 start to the season. Now at 2-5, all the Carolina Panthers can do is focus on one game, one week at a time. Their preparation and excitement roared on Sunday. From the sixth play of the game, a Thomas Davis fumble returned for a touchdown, Carolina never looked back. In all three phases, offense, defense, and special teams, the Panthers appeared to be a playoff team on Sunday. Moving the football on offense behind running back Jonathan Stewart (95 yards, two touchdowns), penetrating defense of Star Lotulelei (three sacks), and good special teams play with Graham Gano (3-for-3 FG); the Carolina Panthers rocked Arizona in Charlotte.
Oct 30, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) is sacked by Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (98) in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Leonard Johnson provided a much needed spark in the Carolina secondary, filling the nickel corner position while adding eight tackles and a sack. With rookie second-round pick James Bradberry still sidelined with turf toe, Daryl Worley stepped in opposite Robert McClain. Despite allowing three passing touchdowns, the secondary played their best football of the season this week.
Oct 30, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis (58) scores a touchdown as middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) celebrates in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST QUARTER: 14-0, CAROLINA
Six plays into the contest, the Carolina Panthers led 7-0 thanks to a Cardinals’ quarterback Carson Palmer fumble that was scooped up by Thomas Davis and returned 46-yards for a touchdown. On the next Cardinals possession, Luke Kuechly recorded the first of eight sacks setting the Cardinals back nine yards in a three-and-out. Carolina would then string together a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped with a Jonathan Stewart 2-yard rushing touchdown. Needing a fast start following the bye week, the Panthers delivered on both sides of the football.
Oct 30, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (28) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
SECOND QUARTER: 24-7, CAROLINA
The Panthers wouldn’t slow down in the second quarter pushing their lead to 24-0 before allowing the Cardinals to get on the board. The very next possession was sparked by a 50-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin from Cam Newton that jump started a seven play, 65-yard drive that took just under four minutes to score. Stewart entered the end zone for his second rushing score as Carolina continued their rapid pace.
Scoring on every possession minus the initial three-and-out and one play before halftime, Carolina looked reminiscent of last year’s team and the one many fans expected to be seeing all season. The defense held the Cardinals in check until their final possession of the half. With just 20 seconds remaining in the half, Palmer found receiver J.J. Nelson for a five-yard touchdown strike in the end zone.
Oct 30, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) talks to the official in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
THIRD QUARTER: 30-14, CAROLINA
Receiving the second half kickoff the Panthers wouldn’t find the end zone, but continued putting up points via the leg of Graham Gano. The Carolina kicker connected on field goals of 52 and 21 yards before the Cardinals would get their second touchdown.
Leading 30-7, Palmer located John Brown across the middle for a 17-yard strike late in the quarter.
The most notable play of the quarter happened prior to Gano’s second field goal when Newton was tackled down by Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell following an incomplete pass. Campbell dove with his helmet toward the knee of the reigning MVP bringing him down viciously but no flag was thrown on the play. Newton remained down for several seconds before getting up and sharing his thoughts with both the Cardinals and officials.
Following the game, Newton blasted the officiating crew in his post game press conference saying that, “The story of my life ever since I came in [the league], ‘Oh, oh, well, we missed that one. I’m sorry. I’ll try to get it.’ That’s bullcrap. As player in this league if we do something stupid we get fined. If you do something derogatory to somebody else, we get fined. I just can’t keep accepting, ‘Oh, we missed that one.’ Or ‘I apologize for doing that.’ Or ‘I didn’t see it.’ That’s horsecrap.”
Oct 30, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) catches a pass during the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Cardinals 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
FOURTH QUARTER: 30-20, CAROLINA
Fans appeared headed toward an interesting finish midway through the fourth quarter, but the Carolina Panthers offense would go on the attack milking the remaining time off the clock to secure the victory. Arizona scored when Nelson secured his second touchdown catch of the afternoon and attempted a two-point conversion which would have pulled them to within one possession. Fortunately, the Carolina defense held because Stewart would fumble three plays later.
The fumble gave the Cardinals the ball with just over three minutes remaining and had the game been down to one possession could have been extremely interesting. Even still, with a ten point advantage the Panthers were hanging on to a big first half lead much like last season. With the ball, Palmer looked for David Johnson, but Kony Ealy would intercept the pass for the Panthers.
Here, the offense would go to work running seven plays for 40-yards and winding all but 19 seconds off of the remaining 3:13 in the ball game. Panthers win.
Oct 30, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in the press conference after the game. The Panther defeated the Cardinals 30-20 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Winning for the first time since Week Two, the Panthers will need to keep their momentum going next week in Los Angeles. It was an overall dominant performance and one that fans have been looking for since the win over San Francisco.
“It’s huge because it’s one of those things you can build off of,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “Today we played to our abilities … We’ve done some good things, but you are what your record says. We’ve got to keep rolling.”
Sunday proved a good indication that the Carolina Panthers can turn the corner and put themselves back into playoff contention. However, after digging a 1-5 hole to start they will likely require some help that they didn’t receive this weekend. Both Atlanta and New Orleans were able to win against quality opponents in Green Bay and Seattle, respectively. In order to make a playoff return, Carolina must now focus on each game, one week at a time, controlling their play and letting the rest of the division sort itself out.
Traveling across the country in Week Nine, the Panthers face a Los Angeles Rams (3-4) team that has lost three in a row but will be returning from a bye week of their own. Fully aware of the difference that week can make, the Panthers will need another quick start on the west coast next Sunday.