Panthers win despite penalties, injuries

If there is central theme the Carolina Panthers have subscribed to this season, it is shooting themselves in the foot. After all, the Panthers are amongst the league leaders in penalties, and probably lead it in false starts.

The Panthers didn't do anything to correct it this week, as the team was flagged 11 times for 90 yards against the Falcons -- one of which, a questionable roughing the passer penalty against Julius Peppers during the Falcons' first possession negated an interception returned for a touchdown by cornerback Richard Marshall.

Another penalty, 12 men on the field, gave the Falcons another chance at a field goal after Atlanta kicker Jason Elam missed on the previous play. If you recall last week, Panthers head coach John Fox called timeout just as the Vikings attempted a field goal, which was blocked by safety Chris Harris, giving Minnesota another opportunity to score. Fox stated after the game that he thought that there were 12 players on the field and he didn't want to give the Vikings a new set of downs.

The Panthers didn't let their penalties get them down, however, as they rode a gimpy Jake Delhomme to his best statistical game of the 2008 season. Delhomme completed 20 of 29 passes for 394 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Delhomme limped around for most of the second half with what Fox called a quad injury. His status for next week is uncertain at this time.

The Panthers lost left tackle Jordan Gross early in the game with an apparent concussion.

"We could kind of hear him come to ... you pray that everything's fine," Delhomme said. "I saw him at the half and he seemed fine, so we'll see. I've never once seen him miss a practice. I've never once seen him miss a rep. I'm trying to think back, since he got here in '03, he's never missed anything. To see him down and watching the play and I look and he wasn't moving, it's a sickening feeling."

Gross was replaced by 2007 left tackle Travelle Wharton, who returned to the lineup at left guard after a few weeks rehabbing a knee injury. Wharton was replaced at guard by Geoff Hangartner -- the player that had replaced Wharton while he was injured. Later in the game, rookie right tackle Jeff Otah left the game with a right ankle injury and was replaced by former starter Jeremy Bridges. After the game, Fox did not speculate how long either player would be out, however, it's highly likely that both players will not play next week when the Panthers take on the Chiefs at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

The Panthers shut down the Falcons' high-powered rushing attack for the most part, holding the NFL's leading rusher Michael Turner to 56 yards on 18 carries. Rookie QB Matt Ryan played well and did not have a turnover despite a heavy dose of Carolina pass rush. Ryan completed 21 of 41 attempts for 158 yards and no touchdowns. Ryan was sacked twice; once by Julius Peppers and again by rookie Hilee Taylor, who was activated this week to provide more pass rush from the edge.

Offensively, the Panthers seemed to right the problems that plagued them last week -- locking in on Steve Smith and protecting Delhomme. Delhomme spread the ball around to five different receivers, and hit Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith each for touchdown strikes. Despite playing with a patchwork offensive line most of the game, the Panthers did not surrender a sack the entire game.

The Panthers didn't run as well as they'd have liked, however Jonathan Stewart took the majority of the snaps in the second half and scored on an 8-yard run to the left to mark his fourth touchdown run in four games -- tying a franchise record set by Stephen Davis.

The win also was a milestone for the Panthers in several respects. Muhammad passed Wesley Walls with his 45th career Panther TD, Delhomme threw his 100th TD pass as a Panthers, and the team notched their franchise's 100th win of all time.

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