For the first time since I can't even remember, the Panthers were able to put together four solid quarters against a superior opponent on the road en route to a victory that should be a huge burst of motivation for this young team going forward.
Carolina's defense showed up big in the first drive of the game as they forced an Arian Foster fumble, setting up the Panthers with prime field position and a chance to jump out in front early. The Cats took advantage of that opportunity when the rocket right arm of Cam Newton connected with the dynamite receiver Steve Smith for a 26 yard touchdown pass, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
In the 2nd quarter, Newton connected with TE Jeremy Shockey for a 9 yard touchdown (his 2nd touchdown pass of the day), putting the Panthers ahead 14-0. The Panthers got their second turnover of the day later in the quarter when The Senn Master (Jordan Senn) picked off an errant TJ Yates pass giving the Panthers another opportunity to pile on points and keep the momentum going in their favor.
And that's when the bizarre happened.
The Panthers pulled off one of the best (if not the best) trick plays on the season when they ran what can only be described as the "fumble rooskie" where Newton ran a play fake to the right, only to have Richie Brockel run a sweep to the left for a 7 yard touchdown scamper that sucked the life out of Reliant Stadium and left the Cats with a 21-0 halftime lead.
But, there are two halves in a football game. We'll take a look at the 2nd half after the jump...
The 3rd quarter started out in typical fashion for the 2011 Panthers, as they got out to a slow start with a 3 and out in their opening possession. The Texans took possession of the ball and managed to kick a field goal to get on the board. More stalled offensive possessions by the Panthers led to another Neil Rackers field goal, followed by an Arian Foster touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, and it seemed that the same old ghosts of the 2nd half were back to take away the Panthers' chances at getting the upset as the Texans pulled the score to 21-13, stealing the momentum away from Carolina.
But, the Panthers buckled down and got the offense back on track in the 4th quarter, led by a DeAngelo Williams touchdown run to put the Panthers up 28-13. The Texans made a valiant effort to come back late in the game, but a key end zone interception by James Anderson drove the final nail in the Texans' coffin and the Panthers were able to run out the final 5 minutes of the clock and seal the victory.
A few quick hits from today's game:
Cam Newton finished today's game going 13/23 for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns (and ZERO interceptions), good enough for a 105.2 quarterback rating. He's only 18 yards shy of breaking Peyton Manning's single season passing record for rookie quarterbacks, and he should eclipse that mark early in the game next weekend against the Bucs.
Armanti Edwards completed a pass to Steve Smith in the first half, giving him a quarterback rating of 112.5 on the day.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart averaged 4.1 and 3.9 yards per carry, respectively. Williams had one touchdown on the day (a 24 yarder in the 4th quarter).
Jordan Senn was a beast on the field, registering 14 tackles (12 solo), a forced fumble, and an interception.
Chris Gamble was his usual self, shutting down Houston's receivers for most of the afternoon (and coming within a few inches of getting a pick-6 in the 2nd half).
Jason Baker was much better punting the ball this afternoon, averaging a respectable 50.4 yards per punt.
And finally, That's O. Mare was successful in XP's, going 4/4 on the day. (Gotta give credit where it's due.)
Alright Panthers fans, what did you take away from today's game? Let's hear it!
This is now a post-game open thread!