Carolina Panthers Second Quarter Awards
The Carolina Panthers have not had the type of season they planned on having after going 12-4 and winning the NFC South Division title last year.
Through the first half of the season, the Panthers sit at 3-5, already having eclipsed their loss total from 2008.
The second quarter saw improved play from the Panthers, especially on defense and in the running game. The Panthers were ranked first in pass defense for much of the quarter until Drew Brees and the Saints uprooted them with 330 yards passing.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart benefited from improved offensive line play in the second quarter and recorded two of the franchise's top three rushing performances during that span.
Despite all of that, the Panthers still wound up with a 2-2 record in the second quarter and now find themselves staring straight uphill at the second half of the season and a potential playoff berth.
Let's take a look at the award winners from the second quarter.
Steve Smith's 50-yard touchdown grab stands as his only score of the season to date, but it was a beautiful play.
Jake Delhomme took the snap and faked a smoke route to Smith, who put a wicked double move on Cardinals' cornerback Dominique Rogers-Cromartie.
As Smith broke open, Delhomme hit him perfectly in stride and watched as his favorite target practically walked into the end zone from there. That made the score 21-7 in favor of the Panthers, shocking the Cardinals fans at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Best Coaching Move/Play Call
The Panthers finally got back to their meat and potatoes in Arizona, calling the numbers of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart all day long.
The week before, the Panthers had thrown the ball 44 times against the league's worst run defense. Against the Cardinals, the Panthers ran the ball 44 times against the league's best run defense.
DeAngelo Williams' game winning touchdown goes down as the biggest score, simply because the Panthers could not have lost that game.
After taking a commanding lead early, the Panthers allowed the Bucs to creep back into the game via a kick return for touchdown and interception return for touchdown on consecutive possessions.
DeAngelo scored this one-yard touchdown with less than 30 seconds left after an epic drive down the field to give the Panthers their second win of the season and their second in a row.
Biggest Mental Mistake
When the season is over, if the Panthers do indeed miss out on the postseason, this could be one of the moments that sticks out in the minds of players and fans alike.
The Panthers had just scored against the Bills to come within eight points with six-and-a-half minutes left in the game. The defense held strong, forcing a three-and-out for the Bills.
Kenny Moore went back to return the punt, but upon its arrival, dropped it and turned the ball back over to the Bills, allowing them to waste another three minutes of clock and kick a field goal that essentially put it out of reach for Carolina.
The Bills defense was tired and another possession had a good chance of leading to another touchdown and a tie game, but the Panthers will never know what could have been.
With both Brad Hoover and Tony Fiammetta out for the New Orleans game, there was a good bit of mystery about who would start at fullback.
John Fox was careful not to give anything away during the week leading up to the game, saying only that the Panthers would have to get creative in their packages to make up for having no active fullbacks.
The answer to the question was answered on the first play of the game, however, as rookie Tyrell Sutton got the first handoff and took it nine yards before DeAngelo Williams ran 66-yards on the next play.
Sutton, an undrafted free agent, was acquired from the Packers after final cuts had been made and the preseason was over. Sutton spent the first seven games of the season inactive, but made quite an impact in his first NFL game.
Sutton blocked well for Williams, who racked up over 150 yards on the ground, and also carried three times for 15 yards and caught a pass for 11 more.
NEW! Biggest Defensive Play
After a Casper-like start to the 2009 season, Julius Peppers broke out in the second quarter as the beast on the end that Panthers fans know him as.
His freakish athletic ability was in full display on this play, as he fought off a block below the knees to reach up and snag a Kurt Warner screen right out of the air and waltzed 13 yards into the end zone to make it 28-7 Panthers.
One of the best parts about seeing Steve Smith score is seeing him celebrate. The 'Smittybration' was in full effect after his first and only touchdown of the season in Arizona.
There's something about your best player being so excited at a time when he's so frustrated that gives you hope for the rest of the year.
Smith's dance moves take home the award for best celebration in the second quarter, and hopefully he'll have a few more entries up for consideration in the third.
Best Defensive Performance
The Panthers defense put on the clamps in Tampa Bay, holding their offense to just seven points on the day.
Thomas Davis recorded his first interception on the season and Josh Johnson was sacked four times. The defense held the Bucs to under 250 yards of total offense in the win.
Tampa Bay had 21 points on the scoreboard at day's end, but those were thanks to kickoff and interception returns for touchdowns.
Offensive Player of the Quarter
DeAngelo Williams found his stride in the second quarter, racking up 548 yards on the ground and scoring five touchdowns.
In three of the four games, Williams ran for 145 yards or more and he averaged over six yards per carry for the quarter.
Williams also tallied two runs of 60+ yards in the second quarter.
Defensive Player of the Quarter
Julius Peppers finally stepped his game up to the level at which we all know he can perform.
During the second quarter, Pep racked up four sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception return for a touchdown. He also spent a good amount of time in the face of opposing quarterbacks, most notably Kurt Warner in Arizona, who ended up throwing five interceptions against the Panthers.
Carolina will need Peppers to continue his recent tear in the second half of the season as they try to mount a playoff push.
Rookie of the Quarter
Sherrod Martin was thrust into the starting free safety role when Charles Godfrey went down with a bum ankle in the Buffalo game.
Martin made his first start against Kurt Warner and the explosive Cardinals' passing game—no problem for the second round pick out of Troy.
Martin tallied two interceptions against Warner and company and continues to start in Godfrey's absence.
Spending a lot of time at cornerback in the preseason, Martin says, helped make him into a more instinctual safety. His nose for the ball in college was one of the things the Panthers' coaching staff liked best about him when he was drafted, and he did not disappoint in his first opportunity.
That's All, Folks!
That wraps up the Carolina Panthers' second quarter awards. Check back after Week 13 to see who will take home honors for the third quarter.
If you have any suggestions for categories or would like to nominate a player, drop me a message or leave me a note on my bulletin board.