Panthers defeat St. Louis to get back to .500

Oct. 22, 2013 @ 03:07 PM

The Carolina Panthers are back to .500 following an impressive 30-15 victory over the visiting St. Louis Rams on Sunday in Charlotte.

The Panthers (3-3) took no time at all to get points on the board when Captain Munnerlyn picked off a Sam Bradford pass on the first play from scrimmage and returned it 45 yards for the touchdown.

Later in the quarter, the Rams (3-4) put together 10-play drive that covered 65 yards. However, the Carolina defense came up with a big, goal line stand to take over on downs on its own 1 yard line. But on the next play, it was the St. Louis defense who came up big when Mike Tolbert was tackled in the end zone for a safety to make the score 7-2.

After the teams exchanged field goals in the second, Tolbert polished off an impressive 80-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers a 17-5 lead at the half.

In the third quarter, the Panthers extended their lead to 20-5 on a Graham Gano 31-yard field goal. The Rams responded with their first and only touchdown of the day when Sam Bradford hit Zac Stacey from four-yards out for the score.

At the end of the quarter, Carolina found the end zone once again. Cam Newton hit Steve Smith for a 19-yard touchdown. The touchdown came just moments after a scuffle between Smith and Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Smith then beat Jenkins on the touchdown catch.

The scuffle between Smith and Jenkins was just one of many between the two teams. Rams defensive end Jake Long was ejected from the game after one scuffle. Then late in the game, Bradford was take down from behind near the out-of-bounds line, causing another scuffle. It turned out that Bradford tore his ACL on the play and will miss the rest of the season.

“Having to watch the rest of the game in the locker room was probably one of the low points of my career,” Long said. “I can’t let that happen again. ... I need to be stronger than that. I play this game with a lot of emotion. I won’t change that. I can’t let people provoke me.”

The only scoring in the fourth quarter was a 50-yard field goal by Gano and a 42-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. The Rams never threatened the Carolina lead.

Newton and the rest of the Panthers’ offense put together arguably their best performance of the season. Newton completed 15-of-17 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. But the statistic that sticks out is the zero turnovers committed by the Panthers. It is their second consecutive game without a turnover. Prior to the Minnesota game on October 13, Carolina had committed 13 turnovers in just four games.

“I feel like I am progressing,” said Newton. “I’ve got to throw the ball away. Just give my guys a chance and when we do that, it’s exciting to watch. Anytime I have got an opportunity to give a dink or dunk to these guys, they make the big plays.”

The Panthers have a quick turnaround as they travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers on Thursday night at 8:25 p.m.