Cardiac Cats Back Again

If it wasn't for the fact that the second teams were in for the second half, you would think you were watching a 2003 Panthers regular season game.

Cleveland came into Cleveland Browns Stadium with a bit of swagger, going undefeated so far in preseason, as the Panthers were looking to correct the mistakes that ultimately led to a loss last week in New York against the Giants. The Panthers would squeeze out a 23-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the third preseason game for both teams. Big plays in the final seconds of both halves sprung the Panthers to an eventual win.

The Panthers seemed to return to old form, as their rushing game took off. DeShaun Foster rushed for 56 yard on 9 carries, and Jamal Robertson had 47 yards on 8 carries. The Panthers would eventually have 143 yards rushing compared to the Browns total of 85 yards. The Panthers also struggled in the red zone, as Cleveland's defense forced Panther field goals rather than touchdowns in pressing situations.

"We did some good things," QB Jake Delhomme said after the game. "I'm disappointed that we settled for three field goals, but it was great to end the half the way we did. To score seven points was huge after the Browns touchdown."

John Kasay will no doubt be icing his leg and taking it easy today, as he was the primary scorer for Carolina. He connected on his first three field goal attempts, making the score 9-0. However, Cleveland would eventually get a field goal off of a DeShaun Foster fumble, and in the last few seconds of the first half, William Green rumbled into the endzone from four yards out, almost untouched. With less than a minute remaining, Jamal Robertson showed a flash of brilliance as he returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards, to set up a Delhomme to Steve Smith touchdown to take the lead 16-10 just before the half ended. Delhomme would go 9 for 13 with 1 touchdown and no interceptions.

The score remained there throughout the third quarter, as penalties plagued both teams. The sloppy play seemed to be a theme from the beginning of the game. In the fourth quarter, Cleveland would capitalize off of a Panther turnover for three again, as TE Michael Gaines fumbled the ball in Panther territory, making the score 16- 13. Both teams went back and forth in the fourth quarter, but Sultan McCullough scored the second rushing touchdown for the Browns to put them back in the lead. Carolina, led by Chris Weinke (9/19 with one touchdown), drove down to the Cleveland 35, but John Kasay missed the field goal wide right with just over two minutes remaining.

Cleveland looked to run the ball and wear out the clock, but rookie linebacker Adam Seward forced a fumble on the first play of the drive, recovered by the Panthers' Sean Tufts. With a new spark, Carolina aired the ball out, and Chris Weinke connected with Efrem Hill from 21 yards out for the final score of the game, making it 23-20.

"The offensive line did a great job of protecting (Chris) Weinke," Efrem Hill said of his game winning touchdown. "He threw me a good ball, and I turned it up and Jamal (Robertson), who was running good all night, helped me out with a great block that allowed me to get into the end zone."

The Browns would air the ball out four more times, attempting to at least get into field goal range to tie the game, but Carolina prevented it, and got the ball back from a turnover on downs. Chris Weinke took a knee, and the Panthers got their second preseason victory.

"I thought it was pretty good in the first half," Coach Fox said. "We came out and got a little sloppy in the second half. We had a drive down the field against us and a couple of penalty calls, but I thought the way our offense responded at the end was outstanding."

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