The Panthers broke open a close game in the fourth quarter at home Sunday, whipping the New York Jets, 30-20, and raising their record to 10-4. And with New Orleans losing on the road to St. Louis, it couldn't have been a better Sunday for the Panthers. The Panthers can win their last two games (home against New Orleans, on the road vs. Atlanta) and win the NFC South with a 12-4 record. Here's my column about the possibilities Sunday opened up.
And here are 5 performances I really liked Sunday:
1. Brandon LaFell. Not only did LaFell have a big-time 36-yard catch in traffic when he held onto the ball while getting drilled, but he also threw a big-time block on DeAngelo Williams' 72-yard touchdown run with a screen pass (that's DeAngelo above, running down the right sideline as Jets coach Rex Ryan looks on).
2. Captain Munnerlyn. Two sacks, one interception returned for a TD to break Mike Minter's pick-six team record?! Promote this man to general.
3. DeAngelo Williams. That 72-yard scamper showed us the speed that we sometimes forget DeAngelo has, and he also had some key tackle-breaking runs as he rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries.
4. Cam Newton. Threw for 224 yards in the first half alone (and 273 altogether), repeatedly putting the ball on target to tight end Greg Olsen in particular. Seemed to take a hard hit at end of first half and was slow coming out for the second -- he had wound up stubbing his toe, but in a pretty painful way -- but didn't miss a play and didn't have a turnover. In the picture at the bottom of this post, he's celebrating Mike Tolbert's touchdown.
5. Jason Williams. The genial, behind-the-scenes special teamer came up with what may have been the biggest play of the game, blocking a punt with the score 16-13, Carolina, early in the fourth quarter. That set up Mike Tolbert's touchdown and gave Carolina breathing room in what was a close game for a long time. The Panthers are now 6-1 at home and about to face the Saints in a 1 p.m. game Sunday that WON'T be flexed, although I keep getting emails and tweets wondering if it will be.