Panthers Week 12 Report Card

The Panthers are not getting the desired results on the field, but there is no questioning the effort. The run game rounded into form, Jimmy Clausen showed some poise and the defense stiffened late. See how each unit stacked up in this report card.

RUN OFFENSE: B+ -- The Panthers ran for a season-high 151 yards on Sunday. Although that's still 5.1 yards below last season's 156.1 yards per game, it was major strides for a struggling offense. Jonathan Stewart led the way Sunday with 98 yards, while starter Mike Goodson chipped in 55. The Panthers averaged 5.6 yards per carry and they seem to be rounding into form, albeit much later than expected. They finally had some long runs as Stewart had a 31-yard burst and Goodson a 26-yard touchdown run. For the most part, it was pretty solid blocking up front. The Panthers did the same thing last year, developing into a better rushing team as the season progressed.

PASS OFFENSE: C+ -- Jimmy Clausen didn't put up great numbers (16 of 28 for 195 yards with one interception) but he showed promising poise late in the game and continues to develop as a rookie quarterback. The one interception he threw wasn't his fault as Dante Rosario didn't cut the right way on his route. Now, Clausen needs to get a little more aggressive and start making plays instead of trying not to make mistakes. Most of Clausen's yardage came after the catch. He has just one touchdown pass in five starts and that simply isn't good enough. The Panthers didn't test the waters deep at all, electing to throw underneath the coverage, which often meant settling for a field goal or having to punt. Goodson led the team with a career-high eight catches for 81 yards, including a magnificent 32-yard reception on the game's final drive. Steve Smith was relatively quiet, targeted five times but only catching two passes for 33 yards. Brandon LaFell had a terrific 28-yard reception late in the game to give the Panthers a chance to win.

RUN DEFENSE: F -- The Panthers allowed Peyton Hillis to run through and around them most of the first half. He tallied 131 yards on the ground and ran for three scores, all of those in the first two quarters. "He's a big boy," said Panthers cornerback Richard Marshall, who had six tackles. "We knew coming into the game that he was big. We knew he would run the ball hard and we would have to get all 11 guys to the ball. For the most part, I think we tried to tackle him well." As a team, the Browns finished with 152 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. The only positive was when the Panthers stuffed the Browns on three running plays late in the game to get the ball back.

PASS DEFENSE: B+ -- The Panthers got their first defensive touchdown in 20 games as Captain Munnerlyn returned a Jake Delhomme interception 37 yards for a score. Munnerlyn was a surprise starter over Chris Gamble, who has been benched for ineffectiveness. Jon Beason also came up with an interception of Delhomme and Charles Johnson played big, logging two sacks and pushing his season total to 6.5. Delhomme threw for 245 yards, but at one point you could sense the Browns were scared to throw the ball after Delhomme's two third-quarter picks. The Panthers hurt themselves early on with costly penalties on third downs that allowed the Browns to keep moving the chains.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D- -- John Kasay made three field goals of 43, 42 and 43 yards but missed two from 46 and 42 yards, the latter coming as time expired. Rookie Eric Norwood made a huge rookie mistake, running into the punter on fourth down, allowing the Browns to keep one drive alive. On the bright side, Carolina got a 32-yard punt return from Munnerlyn and did a solid job of shutting down Cleveland returner Joshua Cribbs. But in the big picture, Kasay's two missed field goals proved costly.

COACHING: B- -- While the offensive play-calling continues to lack creativity and the defense seems to be falling apart, the Panthers did manage to stick in this game longer than expected. They ran some decent plays on the final drive, although most of those were created by great effort on the part of the players. At 1-10, the Panthers moved one step closer to clinching the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. At the very least, this team proved that it's not willing to give up and is still playing hard for coach John Fox.


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