Panthers outlast Colts, 23-20

After disappointing campaigns in 2006 and 2007, the Carolina Panthers were hell bent on returning to the two things that have made head coach John Fox successful...rushing the football successfully and making big plays on defense. In a 23-20 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts Saturday at Bank of America Stadium, they certainly appear to be on that track.

Thanks in part to touchback kickoffs by Rhys Lloyd, the Panthers created consecutive turnovers deep in Colts territory to start the game. The first came on a Julius Peppers sack/fumble of Jim Sorgi on the third play from scrimmage. DeAngelo Williams rushed four times for 20 yards, the last a one-yard touchdown run, for a 7-0 Carolina lead.

The second came on an Adam Seward interception. Again, Williams sliced through the Colts with ease, running behind an inspired offensive line, and ran it in from 10 yards out for a 14-0 lead.

After one quarter, the Panthers had outrushed the Colts 58 yards to negative four. The only reason they hadn't rushed for more is because their defense kept giving them short fields to work with. In fact, starting quarterback Jake Delhomme attempted just one pass, a fade to Muhsin Muhammad that fell incomplete.

Following that near-perfect beginning, the sloppiness of preseason football took over. After spotting their hosts a two-touchdown lead, Indianapolis outscored Carolina 17-6 to enter the locker room down 20-17. The Colts tied the game in the third quarter on a 34-yard field goal by Adam Crossett, capitalizing on a Brett Basanez interception. There was no more scoring until John Kasay's 49-yard field goal late in overtime. It was the third game-winning attempt for Kasay, following a botched snap on the last play of regulation and a 51-yard attempt that missed wide right in overtime.

As is always the case in the preseason, position battles began in earnest. While Williams rushed nine times for 55 yards and two touchdowns, rookie Jonathan Stewart was held out of action with a sore toe. Matt Moore replaced starter Delhomme at quarterback and completed seven-of-14 passes for 107 yards, while Basanez replaced him and completed seven-of-nine passes for 54 yards.

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