Charlotte, NC: It wasn't a pretty game at Bank of America stadium, but it was another win for the Carolina Panthers, their third in a row and giving them the ability to end their 2009 campaign at 8-8.
While it was known the New Orleans Saints would rest many of their starters it became abundantly clear than the Carolina Panthers had decided to put this game into cruise control also. The Panthers dealt with myriad injuries at key positions while also resting Jonathan Stewart for the majority of the second half in order to prevent any aggravation of the achilles injury he dealt with for much of the week.
Regardless of the importance of today's game the Panthers' defense again proved to be a standout and the cornerstone of what the 2010 season should be built around. Meanwhile, QB Matt Moore put in a solid performance without Steve Smith to finish the game 14/23, 162 yds, 1 TD, 96.6 rating.Carolina wasted no time in asserting their toughness with Jonathan Stewart running for a gritty 67 yard touchdown on the second play of the day giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
Both teams failed to move the ball for the majority of the first half as teams traded short drives and punts as the average drive length lasted just over a minute for almost the entire second quarter. With New Orleans managing just a single field goal. The Carolina Panthers broke the touchdown drought, however, as Matt Moore and unlikely target Dwayne Jarrett put together a solid drive in the last minutes of the first half culminating with Moore connecting with Jarrett on a 30 yard TD pass to make the score 14-3.
Jonathan Stewart rushed just two times in the 3rd quarter and this would be the last time Panthers' fans would see him in 2009. John Fox and the Carolina coaching staff turned the run game over to rookie Mike Goodson in a clear effort to evaluate his potential for the 2010 season. The Panthers were able to get two more John Kasay field goals making the score 23-3.
A highly questionable Unnecessary Roughness' penalty on Captain Munnerlyn gave the Saints excellent field position in the third quarter ultimately allowing their only touchdown of the day, a 1 yard run by reserve RB Lynell Hamilton. The score was 23-10 at this time.
The high point of a wholly anemic 4th quarter was a late Julius Peppers interception of Mark Brunell. The Panthers locked down the majority of the 4th quarter throwing the ball only once and relying on Brad Hoover to fill in at running back to grind out the remainder of the game.
The 13-3 New Orleans Saints are taking a three game losing streak into their off week before the playoffs truly begin a week from next.
Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers now hit the off-season at a respectable, but unremarkable 8-8. This proves to be a fascinating off-season for the Carolina Panthers with question marks looming not only over head coach John Fox, but also long standing Panthers Julius Peppers and Muhsin Muhammad who will have to receive new contracts, or be franchised for the 2010 season.