Carolina got its biggest win of the season Sunday at Houston, avoiding the second-half blahs just enough to win, 28-13, on the road against a team that has already clinched a playoff berth. (Here's my column about the victory and what it means).
One more link, too: Here is a "Scott Says" I wrote for the newspaper about Jeremy Shockey ripping the Houston Texans for their national anthem etiquette.
The Panthers were up 21-0 at halftime. Houston creamed Carolina in the third quarter to cut the lead to 21-13. But the game's key drive came after that, when Carolina went 80 yards in seven plays to take a 28-13 lead with 9:54.
After James Anderson stopped Houston's next march by intercepting rookie T.J. Yates in the end zone, Carolina ran out the game's final 7:25 with "downhill football," as left tackle Jordan Gross called it. They went from their own 3 to the Houston 28 to end the game convincingly.
This is the sort of game that should give any Panther fan hope for 2012. Yes, the Texans are down to their third-string QB, who had two bad picks Sunday. But the Texans still had the NFL's No.1-rated defense, and Carolina shredded it for four TDs. Newton didn't have a turnover -- the Panthers are now 5-0 when he doesn't and 0-9 when he does -- and even a trick-play handoff through the legs to Richie Brockel worked for a seven-yard TD.
If Carolina had lost yet another big lead -- after blowing a 16-point margin to Atlanta and a 17-point lead at Detroit -- this could have been awful for the team's confidence. Instead, the Panthers got what is easily their biggest win since 2009.