The final home game of the Carolina Panthers’ 2010 season started with two rookies starting at quarterback. Carolina’s Jimmy Clausen was still looking for his first win as a starter, and Arizona’s John Skelton was making the second start of his career.
Clausen walked off the field with the victory – his first as a starter in a Carolina Panthers’ uniform. The Panthers defeated the Cardinals 19-12 and earned their second regular-season win at home in the 2010 calendar year.
“You’re supposed to win games,” Clausen said. “This was big for us going into the next two games and next year.”
Next year, however, probably won’t feature head coach John Fox calling the shots. Fox walked off the field after Sunday’s win with his hands over his head and index fingers in the air. He said it was a salute to fans sitting in the corner of the end zone whom he has gotten to know during the past nine seasons.
“It was an emotional day,” Fox said. “Just talking to some of the players before the game and after the game, it was those types of things. It was fun to finish winning here. It’s been a tough season for all of our fans, our organization, everybody in that locker room. It was good to end on a win.”
Said linebacker Jon Beason: “If it is his last game, it’s a good way to send him out. He has a lot of memories in this place, and he’s done a lot for the organization. To win your last one at home, it’s big.”
The Panthers are 2-12 after Sunday’s win. They are still in running for the top pick in the 2011 NFL Draft after wins by Detroit (4-10) and Cincinnati (3-11).
Carolina led 6-0 after the first quarter and turned it on in the second. The Panthers turned an interception by Sherrod Martin into a 16-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen to tight end Jeff King for a 13-0 lead.
King emphatically celebrated the touchdown, his first of the season, with high jumps and a hard spike. King said it was his standard touchdown celebration. The scoring pass was Clausen’s second of his rookie season.
Clausen ended the game on 13-of-19 passing for 141 yards and a 107.6 quarterback rating. His quarterback rating coming into the game was 55, which is six-tenths lower than injured quarterback Matt Moore.
“I’m seeing things more clearly and quicker than I did early on this season,” Clausen said.
The touchdown pass provided separation for the Panthers, and kicker John Kasay provided a majority of the offense. Kasay made four field goals He kicked two in the first quarter from inside 30 yards and two in the third. His longest of the day was a 43-yard kick with 27 seconds left in the third quarter giving the Panthers a 19-9 lead.
Linebacker Jordan Senn set up Kasay’s third field goal recovering an onside kick at the beginning of the second half. Kasay made a 24-yard field goal six plays later. Senn made the plays on special teams recovering two onside kicks, and it came on the day when the Panthers introduced special teams starters at the beginning of the game.
Jonathan Stewart carried the work load for the Panthers’ running game. The third-year player out of Oregon carried the ball 27 times for 137 yards rushing. His longest run of the day was his first. Stewart ran 35 yards up the right sideline setting up Kasay’s first field goal.
Stewart averaged 4.4 yards per carry this season and averaged 5.1 per carry in Sunday’s win.
“The offensive line did a great job up front,” Stewart said. “Focus and finish. It’s a saying coach Mike Bellotti said back in Oregon always used to say to us. We focused throughout the whole game. We started off the right way. There were some ups and downs, but it’s all about how you finish at the end of the day.”
Arizona made the game interesting in the closing minutes. The Cardinals trailed 19-9 after Steve Breaston recovered Tim Hightower’s fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, and they kicked a late field goal to make it 19-12.
“For the most part, we played 60 minutes,” Beason said. “We wish we could get those last few series back on defense, but it didn’t matter. We didn’t have a really great day as far as stats are concerned, but never the less we got the win. That’s what it’s all about.”
Arizona tried an onside kick, but Senn recovered his second of the game to seal the win. Senn gave the ball to Fox.