It was 2015 all over again as the Panthers overmatched the Cardinals.
The Carolina Panthers looked overmatched on paper. They’ve been sputtering while the Arizona Cardinals had been the best team in the NFL up to this point. Many probably expected a lopsided game, but the team on the winning of it was not who you’d think.
The Panthers utterly dominated the first half. Cam Newton was brought in twice in goal line situations and scored touchdowns on both plays. The defense limited the Cardinals to 62 first half yards and just three first downs. Donte Jackson secured a pick and ended multiple Cardinals drives with strong pass breakups. When Newton wasn’t in the game, PJ Walker and Christian McCaffrey led an efficient Panthers offense out to a 23-0 lead.
The second half didn’t contain the fireworks of the first, but the Panthers continued to dominate. Outside of one drive, the Cardinals absolutely could not move the ball. The Panthers offense moved the ball decently enough to get a couple of more scores to put the game completely out of reach. It was some very easy viewing.
The Panthers looked energized with PJ Walker leading the offense and Cam Newton present. The defense was as dominant as they’ve been all year, and the offense actually looked like they knew what they were doing. Christian McCaffrey outgained the Cardinals entire team 161-160 until the Cardinals picked up nine yards on the final play of the game.
Panthers fans have hope again. Cam Newton is back and the Panthers just made a statement with this pummeling of he Cardinals. This looks like a rejuvenated team, and they have to a chance to make up some ground in the coming weeks.
Here’s the quarter by quarter recap.
It was a storybook start for the Panthers. After stuffing the Cardinals first two plays, Haason Reddick sacked Colt McCoy and forced a fumble that was recovered by Morgan Fox. A few players later, with the Panthers on the two yard line, Cam Newton took the field. He shrugged off a couple of Cardinals defenders for his first touchdown since his return.
The Panthers again stonewalled the Cardinals and forced a turnover on downs. PJ Walker and Christian McCaffrey drove the Panthers down inside the five once again, where red zone specialist Cam Newton was against inserted into the game. He found Robbie Anderson on a quick out to put the Panthers up 14-0.
Donte Jackson ended the Cardinals third drive with an interception that the Panthers turned into another field goal to give them a 17-0 lead after one.
The second quarter wasn’t nearly as eventful as the first. The Panthers defense continued to completely stymie the Cardinals offense, holding them without a first down in the quarter. PJ Walker gave the ball back with an interception after one, but that was sandwiched between a couple of long Zane Gonzalez field goals. The Panthers led 23-0 at the half.
The Panthers offense went three-and-out to start the second half, and the Cardinals took the ball and finally strung together enough of a drive to muster a long field goal. The Panthers responded with a 75 yard drive helped in large part by a 33 yard pass interference on the Cardinals on a slightly underthrown deep ball from Cam Newton to DJ Moore.
Shaq Thompson timed a snap count to fly through the Cardinals line to sack Colt McCoy. McCoy was injured on the play and would not return. The Panthers bottled up backup quarterback Chris Streveler on the ensuing plays, ending with Haason Reddick and Morgan Fox combining for a fourth down sack to turn the Cardinals over again.
The Panthers wouldn’t keep the ball for long. Chuba Hubbard fumbled a handoff, but the Cardinals did nothing with it, turning the ball over on downs again. The Panthers led 31-3 after three.
The Panthers punted it away early in the fourth, and the Cardinals took their first fourth quarter possession down the field in small chunks to get on the board with their first touchdown a little over five minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals tried an onside kick, but Sean Chandler covered up what was a somewhat scary looking wobbly onside kick. Ameer Abdullah picked up some nice chunks on the ground and through the air to get the Panthers in a goal to go situation. The drive stalled out, but the Panthers milked six minutes off the clock and got Zane Gonzalez his fourth revenge field goal. The teams exchanged punts to run out the remainder of the game. The Panthers handed the Cardinals their second loss of the season and moved themselves back to .500 on the season.