The Panthers' best bet for a Pro Bowl player this year may be a guy who didn't even attend a full training camp with them.
Safety Chris Harris, acquired in a trade with the Chicago Bears earlier this year, has proven to be an aggressive, impact player for the Panthers. He joined the team in mid-August following the retirement of veteran Mike Minter, and he's had a solid impact ever since.
On Sunday, he tied Mark Fields' single-season franchise record for forced fumbles in a season with his seventh.
"I know I'm not getting interceptions -- I only have one -- but I feel like fumbles, they serve as interceptions. They are turnovers," Harris said. "That gives us the extra possession on offense, and I'm trying to make as many plays as I possibly can.
"They pay me to make plays. This year it's been fumbles. I've been very conscious about trying to break the ball out every time I tackle somebody."
Harris, now in his third season, has one year left on his contract. Look for the Panthers to try to sign him to a long-term contract because he brings a needed aggressiveness to the defense.
--K John Kasay endured a crazy afternoon kicking in a swirling wind at Bank of America Stadium that reached 18 mph at times. In the first quarter of Sunday's 13-10 win over Seattle, Kasay hit one of the ugliest looking field-goal attempts of his career, as the ball shanked quickly to the left, the equivalent of a golf slice while.
But Kasay bounced back in the fourth quarter, connecting from 37 and 53 yards with the wind at his back, giving Carolina the lead on both occasions.
"There was a very strong right-to-left wind. It was tricky in that one end zone," Kasay said. "We knew that in pregame, and I hit it good, but it just didn't go where I aimed. That's kind of the way it goes sometimes."
Of the two kicks he made in the west end zone, Kasay said, "Fortunately, I was going with the wind. That makes a big difference."
Kasay even had a touchback on one kickoff -- just his second of the season. However, he also sent another kickoff flying out of bounds, marking the fifth time he's done that this season.
"A lot of times we are trying to cut the field down," Kasay explained of his struggles on kickoffs. "It doesn't always go the way we want it to. There is nobody that is more disappointed than I am when that happens."
Kerney entered the game with an NFL-high 13.5 sacks, but was he shut out Sunday. Gross has never surrendered a sack to Kerney in six head-to-head meetings.
"He's a good D-end," Gross said. "I knew he was going to be tough. He works the edge hard. I feel like I played pretty well against him. He's had a lot of games where he's made guys look silly. I'm glad it wasn't me on this day."
--Even Carolina's defensive players were impressed with the composure of rookie QB Matt Moore.
"That young fellow there, I mean ... that is what you look for in a quarterback," DT Kris Jenkins said. "I know that you all had goose bumps on the sidelines. It was cool, the defense being able to hold them. That's how we are supposed to play. That's what we practice hard for and that's what we put our heart into. If we can keep that up, we've got something to build on. I know that our playoff hopes are pretty much gone, but that doesn't mean our season is over. We can still continue do what we are supposed to do."
--"If you put the ball in my hands, I will make plays. If not, then there is nothing I can do. That is the bottom line." -- Panthers WR Steve Smith.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--DE Julius Peppers injured his knee during Sunday's game but was seen walking around after the game without a brace. He seems fine to play this week.
--QB Matt Moore will start this week against Dallas, the team that cut him earlier this year.
--RG Geoff Hangartner has started the past two weeks for the Panthers in place of Jeremy Bridges. The Panthers are clearly taking a long look at Hangartner.
--TE Dante Rosario is starting to see more action in the Panthers offense.
REPORT CARD VS. SEAHAWKS
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- QB Matt Moore completed 19 of 27 passes for 208 yards with no touchdowns -- but most important, no turnovers -- in his NFL starting debut. He remained calm in the pocket and didn't make any poor decisions to really hurt his team. Moore did a nice job of managing the game. He finished with a passer rating of 92.8. Steve Smith (eight catches, 72 yards) came up with some big grabs to move the chains in the second half. The Seahawks, who came in with a league-high 41 sacks, were shut out in that category Sunday.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- The Panthers struggled running the football up until DeAngelo Williams finally broke through with a 35-yard touchdown run with 1:17 left in the game to seal the win. Prior to that run, he had 14 carries for 26 yards. Williams finished with 61 yards, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. DeShaun Foster had 18 carries for 47 yards (2.6 average).
PASS DEFENSE: A -- The Panthers completely shut down QB Matt Hasselbeck up until the final minute of the fourth quarter, when they resorted to a prevent pass defense on the game's final series. That allowed Hasselbeck to find Deion Branch for a 15-yard touchdown strike with one second left on a ball that bounced off the hands of Patrick Dendy. But at that point in the game, the score was pretty much meaningless. Hasselbeck finished with 274 yards on 27-of-41 passing, and the Panthers sacked him three times.
RUSH DEFENSE: A-plus -- Maake Kemoeatu set the tone for the game by stuffing Shaun Alexander on two plays on the game's first series. Alexander looked nothing like the former NFL MVP and was held to 17 yards on seven carries. Twenty of those came on one run. The Seahawks were limited to just 44 yards on 14 carries.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- John Kasay missed badly from 37 yards kicking into the wind, but he came back and connected from 53 and 37 yards. Kasay did knock another kickoff out of bounds, his fifth of the season, to open the second half. Ryne Robinson had a 17-yard punt return, and OL Geoff Hangartner fielded a short kickoff and returned it to the 40.
COACHING: A-plus -- The Panthers kept the game plan simple for Moore and the defense came in with a great strategy. Carolina completely shut down Seattle's high-powered offense. The Panthers easily could have mailed this one in, but they fought hard and kept their slim playoff hopes alive. Equally as important, they displayed some pride.