Last week was not a fluke. Prior to their win over the Los Angeles Chargers last week, the Carolina Panthers had not tasted the sweet nectar of victory in 329 days. With the taste lingering on their lips, the Panthers were ready to feast as they played before fans for the first time in Bank of America this season. Coming into Sunday’s matchup against Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers were showing vast amounts of improvement in all phases of the game – particularly on defense where intense pressure led to four Chargers turnovers.
That defensive tenacity carried over to Sunday where the Panthers held the Cardinals to 94 total yards in the first half while scoring on three of their four offensive possessions. Panthers running back Mike Davis continued his solid play in the absence of Christian McCaffrey. Davis rushed nine times for 48 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater also showed off some foot speed rushing for an 18-yard touchdown. Later Bridgewater was picked off by cornerback Patrick Peterson which set up the Cardinal’s lone first-half score – a 3-yard touchdown to tight end Jordan Thomas. The Panthers responded with a 3-yard touchdown reception of their own from running back Reggie Bonnafon to take a 21-7 lead into the half.
The Panthers didn’t put until the third quarter but halted the Cardinal’s following drive when rookie defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos sacked Murray, causing a fumble recovered by safety Tre Boston. Bridgewater and the offense took advantage, capping off the ensuing drive with a 2-yard touchdown toss to tight end Ian Thomas.
The Cardinals were down, but not out – quarterback Kyler Murray gashed the Panthers defense on a 48-yard rush that later set up his second touchdown pass of the day; this time to Christian Kirk. Kirk’s touchdown cut the Panthers lead to 28-14.
Continuing to call a masterful game, offensive coordinator Joe Brady put together a clock-melting 8:30 drive that carried over into the fourth quarter and was capped by a 27-yard field goal by Joey Slye. The Panthers defense forced a 3-and-out, giving Slye another opportunity to put one through the uprights. After drilling five field goals in last week’s win, Slye’s 42-yard attempt was wide right and the Carolina lead remained 31-14 with 4:05 left in the game.
After a series of penalties – unnecessary roughness, neutral zone infraction, and defensive pass interference – Murray found running back Chase Edmonds for a 2-yard touchdown for the final score of the day. As the clock ran out and “Sweet Caroline” blared at Bank of America Stadium, the Panthers had a 31-21 win to move to .500 in a season where many had counted them out before a down of football was even played.
Bridgewater finished 26-of-37 for 276 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception for a QBR of 98.5. After a dropped pass and offensive pass interference penalty, DJ Moore rebounded with four catches for 49 yards while Anderson led all receivers with 99 yards on eight catches. Mike Davis finished with 84 yards and a touchdown, while Reggie Bonnafon added 53 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown. Cardinals receiver Deandre Hopkins was held to 41 yards on seven catches.
The Panthers move to 2-2 while the Cardinals fall to 2-2. Carolina travels to Atlanta to take on NFC South division foe Falcons next Sunday.