Here are the five things I liked the most about the Panthers’ 20-17 win over Washington Sunday:
1. Carolina outscored Washington 11-0 in the fourth quarter.
In an imperfect game which had TD drives of 1, 12, 13 and 40 yards, the Panthers finally did something big when it counted.
2. Carolina blitzed a lot more (some credit is due to D-coordinator Ron Meeks here).
Linebacker Thomas Davis estimated he blitzed 10-15 times in this one. Davis is having a monstrous season – probably the best on the team so far – and in this one he was credited with a safety (on a run-blitz and helped along by Julius Peppers) and affected the play numerous times.
3. The naked bootleg. OK, it’s third-and-8. You need a first down to keep Washington from getting the ball back with two minutes to go. And you run Jake Delhomme on a naked bootleg to the right?
It was startling. And – thanks to Delhomme getting a couple of extra yards on his own against Washington CB DeAngelo Hall – it worked to clinch the game. Delhomme’s celebration was also priceless.
4. Quinton Teal’s shove. Who knew that you could shove the opposing blocker into his own punt returner without penalty? Teal did just that, causing the game’s biggest play and giving Carolina possession at the Washington 12.
5. John Fox’s defiance. The coach was pretty unvarnished in his postgame interview – especially for Fox. Although there was a Foxsports.com report Sunday that Fox had told some of his friends he expected to be fired at the end of the season, Fox denied it, laughing it off by saying he would tell his friends he expected a new five-year contract.
I also liked Fox going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in this game, even though it didn’t work. The coach has been more aggressive this year on fourth downs, and the Panthers need aggressiveness to get this season turned around. After this Sunday’s result, odds are that the first coach fired out of this game will be Washington’s Jim Zorn, whose squad lost a 17-2 lead to an 0-3 team.