Going to extremes after Carolina improved to 2-5 overall with a 33-20 win over Washington (3-3) in Charlotte before a sellout crowd that really looked like a sellout crowd:
Best quarterback run: It’s tempting to go with Newton’s 16-yard touchdown, but that one was easy compared to the stunning 25-yarder he had to convert a third down in the first quarter. On that carry, Newton held the ball for 14 seconds total, doing a full spin and leaving three tacklers grasping for air before being forced out of bounds.
Best Panther sequence: Early in the third quarter, the Panthers had a three-play thing of beauty. It started with James Anderson’s fourth-down sack, continued with a 37-yard pass from Newton to LaFell and ended with Newton’s 16-yard TD run that provided the first touchdown of the game and opened the floodgates after Carolina led by a scant 9-6 margin at halftime.
Best half: The second, if you like offense. In the first half, we saw five field goals. In the second half, we saw five touchdowns.
Worst defense: Washington entered the game No.1 in the NFL on third-down conversions and fairly high in a number of other categories. But the ‘Skins got shredded by the Panthers and the very efficient Newton in the second half, as Carolina scored touchdowns on its first three possessions on drives of 80, 80 and 65 yards.
Best game for scalpers to make money: This one. Lots of demand for the Carolina-Washington contest, as evidenced by the number of regular folks holding their fingers in the air and trying hard to get tickets before the game began. Usually it’s the other way around, with fans holding extra tickets in their hands, trying to get rid of them.
Worst first-half trend: The Panthers were called for nine penalties for 70 yards in the first half, as they time and again hurt themselves – especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Best ownership contrast: I saw both of these teams’ owners in the pregame. The Panthers’ Jerry Richardson was working the crowd from his golf cart – when I saw him he was chatting with a young boy. The Redskins’ Daniel Snyder, meanwhile, had a phalanx of security guards as he rolled quickly through the pressbox in the pregame.
Worst rule: It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again. Moving the NFL kickoffs to the 35 was a terrible idea. Olindo Mare and Washington’s Graham Gano simply took turns booting the ball through the end zone on almost every kickoff. The play was once again taken completely out of the game.
Best weather: A sunny October afternoon, with highs in the low 70s. Can’t beat that.
Best gesture: After Newton’s TD run, he gave the ball to a small boy in the stands.
Worst prediction: I can’t predict the Panthers lately to save my life. I picked them to beat Atlanta last week and lose to Washington this week. To quote Britney Spears, “Oops, I did it again.” My 2011 overall preseason prediction for the Panthers – 6-10 – I feel a little more confident about.
Best line, Part I: After a 15-yard penalty on the Panthers’ Captain Munnerlyn, Fox analyst Tim Ryan joked that Munnerlyn might be busted to private.
Best line, Part II: The Panthers’ offensive line, despite giving up four sacks, often gave Newton beautiful protection and blocked well for the run as the Panthers put up a season high in points.
Best field-goal precision: Mare actually had to kick one field goal three times after two straight Panther penalties but still made it from 45 yards (it was originally from 30). He ended up 4-for-4 on the afternoon.
Best receiver: Steve Smith was dominant once again, catching 143 yards worth of passes and spinning the ball after every one.
Best two-play defensive sequence by one guy: Carolina defensive end Antwan Applewhite had a pass deflection and then a sack in which he caused a lost fumble by John Beck on consecutive first-quarter plays.
Best stat: After causing only five turnovers in their first six games, the Panthers’ defense forced three Sunday and the offense didn’t have any.