INSIDE SLANTOne of the reasons for the Panthers' recent two-game win streak is they've been able to get pressure on the quarterback and force turnovers.
In the last two weeks, the Panthers have registered a combined nine turnovers and nine sacks against San Francisco and Arizona.
The charge has been led by defensive end Julius Peppers, who recorded his third straight multi-sack game in Sunday's 35-10 win over the Cardinals, giving him eight for the season.
Peppers has posted two sacks in each of the last three games.
He entered the game tied for sixth in the NFC in sacks and should move up the list this week. Arizona's Bertrand Berry entered the game with the NFC lead at nine but was held without a sack Sunday.
Peppers said he hasn't changed much the last three weeks.
"I'm doing the same things that I've been doing," Peppers said. "In the past I was getting there a split second too late. Now I'm there before they throw it."
Peppers' personal best is 12 sacks, set in 2002, his rookie season.
NOTES, QUOTES--A full-time punter has never been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. But Carolina's Todd Sauerbrun believes he has a chance to be the first.
Sauerbrun, now in his 10th NFL season, has been named to the last three Pro Bowls and said earlier this week that he believes he's the league's best punter -- ever.
"I'd like to think so, yeah. I need more great years before I can really say that," Sauerbrun said. "I want to put together four or five more Pro Bowls. If I do that, then I will say I've reached the top."
Even better than Ray Guy?
"I'm sorry. I never seen him play, but I also never saw him kick brand new balls out of the box, either," Sauerbrun said. "He's not the greatest punter that ever was, I'm sorry. There's no way. No way."
Sauerbrun believes today's kickers are much better than those of days gone because they have to use K-balls. Before the last five years or so, kickers and punters were able to work over footballs during the week in order to get them to fly farther.
"I can't even compare the kickers and punters today to years back because of those new kicking balls," Said Sauerbrun, the highest-paid punter in the NFL. "I mean, I've got to wear a glove just to catch those damn things now.
"Back then, they were kicking those rugby balls. I'm sorry, I can't even compare those guys with how strong the guys are today. Because if we had those balls back that they were kicking, you couldn't even classify any of those guys in our categories at all."
For his career, Sauerbrun has averaged 44 yards per punt but has elevated his game since his arrival in Carolina in 2001. Since then, he's averaged 45.9 yards per punt, which ranks ahead of the 45.6 of the NFL's all-time career leader, Shane Lechler of the Oakland Raiders.
--RB Nick Goings on Sunday became the fifth running back in the John Fox era to run for more than 100 yards in a game when he ran for 121 yards in the win over Arizona.
--QB Jake Delhomme got a good chuckle out of Ricky Proehl's failed pass attempt on a fake field goal during Sunday's game.
"As a quarterback, you love how all these guys think they're such great throwers," Delhomme said with a laugh. "Then they try it in a game and something happens and they get hit, and it doesn't look too good. Then they start to realize how it is.
"The same thing happened last year in the playoffs when (Steve Smith) threw to Moose (WR Muhsin Muhammad). I don't know what happened, if Moose dropped it or what. But then Smitty just looked at me with this face that said, 'I can't believe it.' I said, 'See, now you know what I go through. So don't drop anymore passes.' But it's just like me if I tried to run a (pass) route. I'm sure it would be pretty comical."
The Panthers seemed pretty determined to let Proehl throw a pass. He was set to throw earlier in the game after taking a reverse handoff, but he couldn't get rid of the ball because he was under pressure.
--For the first time since last year's season opener, someone other than Delhomme took a snap from center for the Panthers. Delhomme left the game late in the fourth quarter with the Panthers leading 35-10 and was replaced by Rodney Peete.
"I probably wouldn't have done it if not for the thumb," Delhomme said. "... I would have loved to have stayed in. We haven't had the chance to run the victory play too often. And there's nothing like taking a snap and kneeling down. It's just one of the greatest things. But I'll take a win anytime.
"We can do that every week. We can make that arrangement. If we can be up by 25 every week, I'd love to be able to make that arrangement."
--CB Chris Gamble made an incredible one-handed interception late in Sunday's game, nabbing a Shaun King pass out of the air on the side of the end zone. "He makes those type of catches all of the time during practice, so it didn't surprise me," said free safety Colin Branch. "I'm sure the crowd was pretty wowed by it. Chris is an amazing athlete, and he's going to make catches like that and plays like that." Gamble has three interceptions, matching the team rookie record set last season by Ricky Manning Jr.
--FB Brad Hoover missed the first game of his five-year NFL career. Hoover, who has a hip contusion and a sore back, had played in all 73 regular-season games since entering the league in 2000. The Panthers hope he'll be back on the field Wednesday.
--K John Kasay will be questionable for Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
--QB Jake Delhomme got the Panthers off to a good start on Sunday as the Panthers scored a touchdown on their opening possession for the first time this season. And they did it the hard way, driving 96 yards on nine plays before Nick Goings went over from 1 yard out.
--FB Casey Cramer replaced the injured Brad Hoover. He played about 15 offensive plays and was effective as a blocker.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNELREPORT CARD VS. CARDINALS:
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Jake Delhomme played with a painful broken thumb on Sunday and completed 12 of 25 passes for 157 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He wasn't as sharp as normal, but that's understandable considering he almost didn't play. Wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad has been absolutely on fire of late. He had six catches for 118 yards and two more touchdowns on Sunday, giving him 28 receptions for 441 yards and an incredible seven touchdowns in his last four games. Carolina's other receivers combined for seven catches for 42 yards.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Down to their sixth option at running back, the Panthers turned to Nick Goings, who ran for a career-high 121 yards and three touchdowns. Goings got a great block from Jordan Gross and showed some nice speed to the outside on a 57-yard touchdown in the first quarter. He's five yards shy of taking over the team lead in rushing yards from DeShaun Foster. Expect Goings to continue in that role, even when fullback Brad Hoover returns. Give credit to Casey Cramer, who was signed last week off the Tennessee Titans practice squad and did well as a blocking back.
PASS DEFENSE: A -- For the second straight week, the Panthers defense stepped up big, forcing four turnovers, including three Shaun King interceptions. Carolina has forced eight turnovers in the last two weeks. King threw for 343 fairly meaningless yards, most of those coming after the Cardinals fell behind 28-0. Julius Peppers is making a push for the Pro Bowl, adding two more sacks on Sunday to give him eight for the season. Free safety Colin Branch had two interceptions for the Panthers and Will Witherspoon continued his fine play with 13 tackles and a sack.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Panthers held Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher, to 26 yards on 11 carries and the Cardinals to 85 yards on 28 carries overall. The Cardinals fell behind so early and were forced into throwing the ball on virtually ever play in the second half. Shaun King threw 52 times on Sunday.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Aside from Ricky Proehl's ugly attempt at throwing the ball on a fake field goal, the Panthers played well on special teams. Jeff Chandler filled in for John Kasay and converted all five extra point attempts. He did not attempt a field goal.
COACHING: A -- The Panthers had the Cardinals pegged right from the get-go and gave up nothing on defense. Offensively, Carolina showed it was well prepared by marching 96 yards for a touchdown on the game's opening series.