Kristen Swift // @kswift_RN
Panthers 33 Patriots 30
After a disappointing, dismal appearance in a week three loss to the New Orlean Saints, the Carolina Panthers seemed to get it together against the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots in week four.
Film study, stout defense, and a patient offense proved to be a difference maker on Sunday. The Patriots entered the game as the worst defense in the league and likely remained the same. Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula showed balance with his play calling, 29 rushing attempts and 29 passing plays.
Quarterback Cam Newton dissected a struggling Patriot defense going 22 of 29 passing, for 316 yards, four touchdowns touchdowns (including one rushing), and one interception. Running backs Jonathan Stewart, and Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Damiere Byrd along with Newton himself added another 140 yards on the ground.
In a crucial 3rd and 7 from the New England 29 in the third quarter, Newton scrambled 13 yards to the 16 yard line for a first down. On the next play, he hit wide receiver Devin Funchess for a 16 yard touchdown that swung the momentum in the Panthers favor.
Kicker Graham Gano missed the extra point, which could have been a pivotal moment in the game, had he not redeemed himself with a 48 yard field goal to seal the game with four seconds left. Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson dominated on defense combining for 24 tackles.
Defensive end Julius Peppers logged his 147th and 148th sack of his career, and remains the Panthers season leader in sacks with 4.5. It was his second game of the season where he registered two sacks. He moved into 5th all time and is on track to pass former Viking defensive end Chris Doleman in fourth place, as well as close in on former Packer/Steeler/Panther Hall of Famer linebacker Kevin Greene for third.
In a game that proved the Panthers can play at the top level in the NFL, they also managed to break some records.
Running back Jonathan Stewart became the all-time leading rusher, surpassing Deangelo Williams with 6,868 career rushing yards. He has a lot more gas left in his tank too, entering week 5 against the Detroit Lions. Newton became the all-time leader in quarterback wins for the Panthers with 54, and his 50th rushing touchdown of his career (since 2011), puts him on the heels of current leader Lynch who has 52 since 2011.
The Panthers proved resilient Sunday, bouncing back from an embarrassing loss at home to the Saints, improving their overall record to 3-1. They are 2-0 on the road and hope to make it 3-0 going into Detroit to face the NFC North first place Detroit Lions.
One glaring thing the Panthers will have to improve on is their turnover margin. They managed to escape with a win on two turnovers compared to the Patriots zero Sunday. Detroit has forced 11 turnovers in their first four games, and that leaves little room for offensive error, but they’re also facing a Carolina Panthers team that seems to have finally gotten everything together.
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