A Record-tying Day

<P>Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse…it does. This was the last legitimate chance the Panthers had at winning again this season, instead they failed to show up; playing with very little passion.

The dye was cast on the second play of the game, when running back Richard Huntley fumbled. The ball was scooped up by Arizona's Ronald McKinnon, who ran it back 25 yards for the touchdown. Give the Panthers offense credit, they didn't let that discourage them. They responded with a 12-play drive to the Cardinals 26, but John Kasay missed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide left.

The Panthers offense didn't get another first down until the second quarter. By then, the rout was on. The Cardinals got a field goal on the first play of the second quarter, and a 61-yard touchdown pass from Jake Plummer to David Boston to make it 17-0 just 2:24 into the frame. Two plays later, David Barrett picked off Chris Weinke and ran it back to the 12…setting up another Plummer to Boston hook-up of 5 yards making it 24-0.

Carolina had a chance to climb back into this thing after getting a Weinke to Donald Hayes touchdown pass following a 7 minute drive, but then they showed a loss of composure that allowed Arizona to re-establish control.

Actually, it was probably more a case of players trying to get their teammates fired up rather than a loss of control, but it manifested itself in a pair of costly 15-yard penalties that helped the Cards move quickly downfield for another field goal and a halftime lead of 27-7.

The first penalty was on the kickoff. Jerrod Cooper made a nice hit on kickoff coverage and came flying out of the pile. As he emerged, he ripped off his helmet and flung it to the sidelines. 15-yards. Two plays later, Plummer hit Tywan Mitchell for a 10-yard gain, and Brentson Buckner delivered a late hit/forearm shiver right under Plummer's chin. 15 more yards. Buckner showed no remorse following the game, saying it was just a tough football hit, and that he was just sending a message.

The second half was miserable to watch, as the Panthers, then down 30-7, drove to the 9 and the 15, but ran out of downs both times. Weinke followed up his first 300-yard game a week ago, by throwing a club record 63 passes and completing a club record 36 passes. But look at the total passing yardage despite all those completions: 223 yards.

George Seifert's address to the team following this one was short and sweet, telling them they didn't come ready to play. The amazing thing about that is: they didn't come ready to play after 13 straight losses, with a chance to avoid tying the NFL record for consecutive losses in a season. Next week, New England comes to town, playing to win the AFC East, and the Panthers will have a chance to become the first team in league history to lose 15 straight games in the same season.


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