REPORT CARD VS. SAINTS

PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus -- The Panthers were without wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad (concussion) and Jake Delhomme was reduced to passing almost exclusively to Steve Smith. The little man responded with his one of his best performances, recording his third straight 100-yard receiving game. He made two incredible circus-like catches. Smith had nine of Carolina's 12 receptions. Jake Delhomme completed 12 of 27 passes for 148 yards and no touchdowns.

PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus -- The Panthers were without wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad (concussion) and Jake Delhomme was reduced to passing almost exclusively to Steve Smith. The little man responded with his one of his best performances, recording his third straight 100-yard receiving game. He made two incredible circus-like catches. Smith had nine of Carolina's 12 receptions. Jake Delhomme completed 12 of 27 passes for 148 yards and no touchdowns. But, he didn't throw any interceptions, either, and the Panthers won the turnover battle 3-0.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-plus -- The Panthers ran for team-record 223 yards on Sunday against the Saints. Stephen Davis set a franchise single-game rushing record with 178 yards, breaking the old mark set by Richard Huntley in 2001. Carolina came in looking to establish the running game early on and they succeeded as Davis ran for 82 yards on 12 carries in the first quarter. He was over 100 yards by halftime. Of Carolina's first 11 plays, nine were running plays - eight of them to Davis. Davis saved his biggest run for overtime, a 34-yard jaunt to set up a chip shot field goal by John Kasay.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Panthers intercepted Aaron Brooks twice and recovered a fumble that slipped out of his hand while he was attempting to throw. Brooks threw two first-half touchdown passes to Joe Horn, but the Panthers adjusted at halftime and held him in check the rest of the way. The Panthers played more basic Cover-2 zone on Horn, pushing a safety over to help out on him. He had just one catch in the second half. The Panthers seem to have found their pass rush again. After going two weeks without one, the Panthers now have six in the last two weeks. Mike Rucker now has eight for the season.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Deuce McAllister ran for 100 yards for the second time this season against the Panthers, but the Panthers didn't allow runs of longer than 13 yards. The Panthers also forced McAllister to fumble when it counted the most - on a fourth-and-1 in overtime. Julius Peppers forced the fumble and Kris Jenkins recovered it. That led to the game-winning field goal.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- The Panthers kickoff coverage team nearly gave up a touchdown return to Michael Lewis, but kicker John Kasay knocked him out of bounds in Carolina territory. Todd Sauerbrun also had a punt blocked with less than 10 seconds remaining in the first half leading to a John Carney field goal. On the bright side, Kasay was a perfect 3-for-3 in field goals including his third game-winner in overtime this season - all of them coming on the road. Kasay is now 17-for-17 on the season.

COACHING: B -- The Panthers came out looking to run the ball early and that worked as they eventually wore down the Saints. They made a nice change in the second half, throwing to Steve Smith on the first few plays. Considering how many players were banged up coming into Sunday's game, the coaching staff did a nice job of getting this team prepared. This is a huge win for the Panthers, who showed they could bounce back from a loss even when things look bleak. Remember, a year ago the Panthers followed up their first loss with seven more in a row. But this year's team is different and they're showing they know how to win games. A lot of lesser-known players really stepped up and played well for the Panthers. If the NFC playoffs started today the Panthers would have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.


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