|Breaking even: Carolina Panthers climb to .500 with win vs. Cardinals|
|Panthers dominate wire to wire, 31-21|
|Published Sunday, October 4, 2020 9:00 pm|
|Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater eyes Reggie Bonnafon for a touchdown pass in their 31-21 win Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. The win was the second straight for Carolina and evens their record at 2-2.|
Sunday’s 31-21 win against Arizona was Carolina’s second straight after losing a pair to open the season. “It’s feeling good man, I don’t want to lose this feeling,” defensive end Brian Burns said. “I don’t want to go back to losing, that sucks. It’s feeling good, so we have to keep this momentum, keep this ball rolling.”
The Panthers are rolling behind an improving defense that bottled Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray and an offense developing balance and versatility. Perhaps more important, they’re developing group chemistry.
“It’s not an excuse or anything, but everything was new here, new coaching staff, a lot of new players,” said quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who completed 26 of 37 passes for 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns against an interception. …“I think what's happening is we're learning more about each other each week, and each week you go out there to play, each week you go out there to practice, each week you come in here and you compete and different things, you learn more about the guy you're playing with.
“So for us, the last couple weeks, guys have just been getting to know each other more and more and when you really understand a person and know what they've been through to get here and why they play this game, it makes you want to play for me even more.”
Carolina held Arizona, which averaged 406.3 yards per game going into Sunday, to a season-low 262. The key waslimiting Murray’s ability to make big plays, although he completed 24 of 31 passes for 133 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 78 yards rushing on six carries. The Panthers turned him into a pocket passer who couldn’t break off long runs or passes, with Murray’s longest pass going for 25 yards; his best run was 48.
“Just keeping eyes on him,” said Burns, who had three hits on Murray. “The games we had they were working. He couldn’t really scramble because there was a lot of movement going on in front of him. We had guys spying him. There was really nowhere for him to go except for that one run he had I think for 40-some yards. …That was pretty much it. He just couldn’t really go anywhere.”
Offensively, Carolina’s compensating for the loss of All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey and left tackle Russell Okung by scoring touchdowns on four of five red zone possessions. The running back-by-committee approach paid dividends against the Cardinals with 168 rushing yards on 35 carries, paced by Mike Davis’ 84 yards and a score on 16 attempts while Reggie Bonnafon added 53 yards on 10 tries. Bridgewater, who scored his first rushing touchdown since 2015 on an 18-yard run, spread the ball around to eight receivers, with Robby Anderson catching eight passes for 99 yards while Bonnafon and Ian Thomas each scored.
“The thing about pro football is very few teams go 16-0 so really your character is revealed over the course of the season and we have great guys,” coach Matt Rhule said. “They work hard, they come to work every day, they do things the right way, they give their all, they give their best effort. Even in the games that we lost, I never questioned anyone’s effort. When you have a chance to see them win, when they come in, the joy on their face winning the football game is fantastic. I just think it’s a good group.”
Burns is encouraged by the recent turn of events.
“I feel like everything is coming together, besides the little bonehead penalties,” he said. “The offense is playing well, the defense is playing extremely well, in my opinion, and special teams is making plays as well. As long as we can keep this momentum and keep it going, I don’t think we can be stopped. I don’t think we’re scratching the surface yet.”
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