Panthers Top Cardinals, Take Command Of NFC South Going Into Bye Week

Matthew GilmartinSenior Analyst IOctober 29, 2008

The Carolina Panthers pulled off a comeback Sunday nostalgic of their Week Two win over the Bears, as they defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 at Bank of America Stadium.

Running back DeAngelo Williams notched his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, as he accumulated 108 yards and averaged 6.4 yards per carry.  He also scored a touchdown. 

QB Jake Delhomme was efficient, completing 20-of-28 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns.  His favorite target was receiver Steve Smith, who reeled in five catches for 117 yards.  One his receptions turned into a 65-yard touchdown after he juked past one defender and snaked around the other.

Receiver Dwayne Jarrett caught only two passes, but one of them was the one that sealed the game.  Delhomme zipped the ball in between two defenders a few yards apart, and Jarrett came up with the catch as the defenders sandwiched him.  

Carolina's defense, while good enough to win, was nowhere near as good as it was last week.  Or, at least, it didn't look like it was.  

Cardinals field general Kurt Warner continued to be a complete marksman, going 35-of-49 for 381 yards and two touchdowns.  

Warner also tossed an interception that was instigated by a collapsing pocket.  As a result, Warner was forced to leave the pocket.  But even then one of his blockers was in the way, which threw off his timing with his intended receiver.  When Warner finally passed, his receiver wasn't looking for the ball, plus the throw was high, and it bounced off the receiver's outstretched fingertips and glanced into Panthers linebacker Jon Beason's hands.  

The other Arizona turnover was forced when Panthers defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu popped the ball out of Cardinals running back Edgerrin James's arm. Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis fell on the loose ball at the Arizona 18.  This fumble recovery really turned the tables in favor of the Panthers, as Delhomme and Smith connected on a touchdown pass on the next play. 

The Cardinals also made a couple costly mistakes on special teams whose points values represent the difference in the final score.  

The first came at the 1:14 mark of the second quarter.  The Cardinals were at the Panthers' 21 with 4th-and-15 to go.  Neil Rackers was halfway through his kicking motion for a field goal when an official abruptly blew the play dead.  His explanation for the stoppage was that the Panthers had called a timeout.  

But many of the Panthers' players didn't know who had called the timeout.  Safety Charles Godfrey in particular thought that the Cardinals had called the timeout because they were going to try a fake field goal.  

When Arizona holder Dirk Johnson popped out of his crouch and lobbed a pass to tight end Jerame Tuman, Godfrey was ready.  Godfrey chased Tuman down well short of the marker, and the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs.

This was a big turn of events, as these couple of plays kept the game to one possession.  Which meant that the Cardinals could, at worst, only widen the deficit to two possessions on the first possession of the second half.

The second came at the 1:03 mark of the third quarter.  The Cardinals had just scored a touchdown and were set up to kick the extra point.  The ball was snapped, but Johnson screwed up again, bobbling the ball on the hold and preventing Rackers from getting the kick off.  

This mistake prevented the Cardinals from taking a seven-point lead and gave the Panthers an opportunity to win the game if they scored another touchdown and kept the Cardinals from scoring again (as opposed to being able to merely tie the game if they scored again and prevented the Cardinals from scoring again).

Arizona running back Tim Hightower, who had been one of the league's top short-yardage backs entering the game, was mostly held in check.  He was used in multiple short-yardage situations but only gained three yards on six carries.  He did shake off several would-be tacklers on a two-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, though.

The other Arizona back, Edgerrin James, was contained, as he collected only 17 yards on seven carries.

Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby towahawked the ball out of Delhomme's hand early in the second quarter, and he recovered the ball at the Panthers' 5.  That set up receiver Anquan Boldin's first touchdown of the day.  Boldin made nine catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns in his return from an injury suffered during the Cardinals' Week Three game at the Jets that required facial surgery.  

But fellow receiver Larry Fitzgerald was the real thorn in the Panthers' side.  He also   He caught seven balls for 115 yards.  He was the possession receiver; many of his catches were on third down and kept the drive alive.    

Receiver Steve Breaston also chipped in with nine receptions for 91 yards.

The issue with penalties that plagued the Panthers early in the season seems to be gone, as Carolina only committed three penalties for 25 yards.  The Cardinals actually were less-disciplined than the Panthers, getting whistled for seven infractions amassing 60 yards.

The Panthers' top defensive performer was linebacker Jon Beason.  He notched eight tackles and had an interception.  CB Chris Gamble was a close second with eight tackles.

Karlos Dansby was the Cardinals' best defensive player.  He registered nine tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble that set up a touchdown.

The Panthers showed great resiliency in this game, winning a game after being down 17-3 in the third quarter for the second time this season.  But they did more this time that they didn't do against the Bears Sept.14.  The Cardinals didn't roll over and die like the Bears did.  They kept fighting, even once the Panthers got ahead for the first time in the game.

But the Panthers kept their focus and staved Arizona off.  This game wasn't pretty by any means.  But the Panthers still got the job done, and they really proved to themselves that they will almost always be in the game, even if they're down by multiple possessions' worth of points late in the game.

Great teams are resilient and they find ways to win games.  This team is resilient, and they're finding ways to win games.  Do the math.