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October 31, 2011

Linebacker issues continue to plague Panthers

The Carolina Panthers' linebacker situation, a troubled spot through the first half of the season, isn't getting any better.

Both Thomas Williams and Jason Phillips suffered injuries Sunday against Minnesota that could keep them out of action for an extended period of time, head coach Ron Rivera said Monday.

Williams is dealing with a neck injury and Phillips has a calf injury. It was unclear, Rivera said, how long each player could be sidelined.

"It's a rough spot for us now," Rivera said.

The good news, if there is any, is that Omar Gaither was in good shape after briefly leaving Sunday's game in his first action in nearly one month.

Having lost starters Jon Beason and Thomas Davis early in the season, the Panthers have been playing linebacker by committee at times. With Williams and Phillips out against the Vikings, the starting linebackers -- James Anderson, Dan Connor and Gaither -- were called on for some special teams action.

"A little bit of double duty for our guys. It's unfortunate because of injuries at certain positions. When you're down go eight guys and you use your eighth guy, it's tough," Rivera said.

With the benefit of a bye week, Rivera said the team will evaluate its options at linebacker. Any potential roster moves would be dictated by the status of Williams and Phillips. Rivera said he planned to meet with general manager Marty Hurney about potential moves at linebacker.

The Panthers have two linebackers on the practice squad -- sixth-round pick Lawrence Wilson and waiver claim Kion Wilson, who played for Rivera at San Diego.

"We'll have to take a look at (options). This is in the preliminary stages," Rivera said.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 31, 2011 at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

October 30, 2011

VIDEO: Recapping the loss to Minnesota

Joseph Person and columnist Scott Fowler discuss the Panthers' hard-luck loss to the Minnesota Vikings:


Posted by Observer Sports on October 30, 2011 at 08:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Vikings 24, Panthers 21

The Minnesota Vikings survived a late missed field goal Carolina's Olindo Mare and beat the Panthers 24-21 at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.

Mare missed the 31-yard attempt wide the the left with 29 seconds remaining after the Panthers (2-6) had driven from their 24 to the Vikings 13.

Minnesota (2-6) had taken the lead on a 31-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell with 2:43 remaining.

The Vikings rallied from a 21-14 deficit, tying the score late in the third quarter on a 9-yard run by Adrian Peterson.

The Panthers, who have a bye this week, had taken the lead earlier with 3:53 left in the third quarter on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Steve Smith.

After Longwell's field goal, the Panthers drove 63 yards -- getting a key third-down conversion on a 44-yard pass from Newton to Brandon LaFell. The Panthers appeared to have the ball inside the 5 with 42 seconds left on a Newton run, but the play was called back by a holding call on Smith.

Newton came back with a 5-yard pass to Smith, which set up Mare's field-goal attempt. It was Mare's second miss of the season from 30-14 yards (he's made 13).

"Everything was routine," said Mare, in his first season with the Panthers after they cut long-time kicker John Kasay in the preseason. "I thought I hit it well and as wel all know, it wasn't hit well. I didn't do my job. It's one of the things we all talk about; everybody take care of their own job."

Newton completed 22 of 35 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns and wasn't intercepted. Christian Ponder, the Vikings rookie quarterback, was 18 of 28 for 236 yards and an interception.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher, was held to 86 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown (he also caught a touchdown pass). But Peterson 72 of those yards in the second half, when the Panthers defense had trouble contining him.

The Panthers play again Nov. 13 at home against Tennessee. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on October 30, 2011 at 04:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Third-quarter blog: Panthers 21, Vikings 21

The Panthers retook the lead on their first possession of the third quarter, scoring on a 22-yard pass from Cam Newton to Steve Smith. It was Smith's fourth touchdown reception of the season.

The Panthers began the drive on their 20, and got big plays from receiver Legedu Naanee (a 23-yard reception) and Newton (24-yard run).

The Vikings answered with a long drive of their own, going 90 yards on 12 plays, tying the game 21-21 on a 9-yard by Adrian Peterson with 1:58 left in the third.

The Panthers remaining two possessions of the third quarter resulted in a pair of three-and-outs for a total of 17 yards. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on October 30, 2011 at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Halftime blog: Panthers 14, Vikings 14

Minnesota took advantage of Cam Newton's second fumble of the first half to tie the score at 14 at halftime Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

The Panthers had the ball near midfield and were driving when NFL sack leader Jared Allen hit Newton from the blind side and forced the fumble. Chad Greenway recovered at the Panthers' 39-yard line with 1:03 left.

The Vikings needed only two plays to score – a pair of screen passes to Adrian Peterson, who darted 19 yards for the game-tying score with 42 seconds left.

Newton hadn't lost a fumble all season. The Panthers are 0-5 in games when he has a turnover this season.

The Panthers took a 14-7 lead on a pair of Newton touchdown passes to his tight ends.

Jeremy Shockey pulled down a 1-yard score to pull the Panthers even at 7-all with 13:22 left in the second quarter.

On the Panthers' next possession, Newton fired a dart down the right seam for Greg Olsen, who caught it in stride and ran in for a 39-yard touchdown.

It was the first time two Panthers' tight ends caught touchdown passes in a game since a 31-23 win over Tampa Bay on Dec. 30, 2007.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 30, 2011 at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

First quarter blog: Vikings 7, Panthers 0

The Panthers had an awful start, giving up a 78-yard return to Marcus Sherels on the opening kickoff.

Carolina dodged a bullet when the defense held and Ryan Longwell pulled a 45-yard field goal attempt wide right.

But they could not keep the Vikings out of the end zone after quarterback Cam Newton fumbled on the Panthers' first offensive play. Jared Allen recovered at the Panthers' 16-yard line.

Two Percy Harvin carries later, the Vikings had a 7-0 lead.

It was Newton's first lost fumble of the season. The Panthers are 0-5 when Newton has a turnover.

The Panthers drove into Vikings' territory on their next drive, which stalled when rookie right tackle Byron Bell was called for holding.

The Panthers were in Minnesota territory again as the first quarter ended.

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on October 30, 2011 at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Panthers down two defensive backs

Carolina and Minnesota both will be short-handed in the secondary today.

Two of the Panthers' top reserve defensive backs are inactive – safety Jordan Pugh, who has missed two games following a Week 6 concussion, and cornerback Darius Butler, who was in Florida all week following his young daughter's heart surgery.

The Vikings are without a pair of starting corners. Chris Cook remains suspended following his felony assault arrest last week, while Antoine Winfield is out with a neck injury.

Asher Allen and Cedric Griffin will be the starting corners against the Panthers.

The rest of the Panthers' inactives are QB Jimmy Clausen, RB Mike Goodson, TE Richie Brockel, OT Lee Ziemba and DT Frank Kearse.

R.J. Stanford will be the Panthers' third corner, while Jermale Hines will be the first safety off the bench.

The other Vikings' inactives are RB Lorenzo Booker, G Anthony Herrera, OT DeMarcus Love, LB Xavier Adibi and DE D'Aundre Reed.

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on October 30, 2011 at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 28, 2011

Omar Gaither to start vs. Vikings

The Panthers' injury-depleted linebacker corps gets a boost this week with the return of Omar Gaither.

Gaither, who missed two weeks with a sprained knee, will start at the weakside spot Sunday against Minnesota, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said today.

Gaither brings a veteran presence to a group that lost starters and defensive captains Jon Beason and Thomas Davis to season-ending injuries the first two weeks of the season.

"He looked good. Each day he got better. Today he moved around great. He had a lot of energy, which is typical for Omar," Rivera said. "So I feel good about that situation."

The situation with CB Darius Butler is less clear. The Panthers' third corner remains in Florida with his newborn daughter, who underwent heart surgery Thursday.

Butler was scheduled to return today, but called Rivera this morning to tell him he needed to stay. Rivera said his thoughts and prayers are with Butler.

R.J. Stanford would be the third corner if Butler doesn't play. With backup safety Jordan Pugh (post-concussion symptoms) not expected to play, the Panthers could be thin in the secondary.

Quarterback Cam Newton was added to the injury report with a stomach virus. But Newton took all the reps at Friday's practice and is expected to be in the lineup against the Vikings.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 28, 2011 at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

October 27, 2011

Jimmy Clausen adjusting to new role

A year ago at this point, Jimmy Clausen had started three games and played in five during his rookie season with the Panthers.

But with No. 1 pick Cam Newton breaking all sorts of rookie records and firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback, Clausen works with the scout team during the week and has yet to suit up in uniform on game days.

Clausen, the Panthers' second-round pick in 2010, has been inactive for all seven games -- a year after he went 1-9 as a starter under lame-duck coach John Fox.

"Yeah, it's hard. I want to play," Clausen said today. "But at the same time it's not my time right now. And what I'm here to do right now is to learn and to watch and learn from (No. 2 QB Derek Anderson) and the things Cam's doing, and help the team."

Clausen said he had not given much thought to his future, although first-year coach Ron Rivera said Clausen's future could be outside the organization.

In the meantime, Clausen -- who refused to give up his No. 2 jersey to Newton -- is doing what he can to help Newton in the film room.

During one film session, Clausen had to smile when he saw himself under center in a game from last season.

"It was pretty funny to look back and to see that," he said. "Just looking forward right now and doing everything I can to help the defense, help Cam and help the team win."

More on Clausen in Thursday's editions of the Observer.

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on October 27, 2011 at 03:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

October 26, 2011

Cam Newton emphasizing ball security

In the Panthers' two wins this season, rookie quarterback Cam Newton has no turnovers.

In their five losses, he has nine giveaways – all interceptions.

Newton, the No. 1 overall pick, said that's no coincidence.

In all those games, if I wouldn't have had a turnover, I think we'd probably be undefeated right now. I'm not saying that just to say that. I believe that,” Newton said Wednesday.

You look at Green Bay, I admire those guys. Like I said, they play with a swagger. But most importantly they play smart football. You see Aaron Rodgers throwing for a ton of yards. But you don't see him having three touchdowns and three interceptions. That's not happening. Those guys protect the football in the run game also, and that's why they get Ws.”

Newton came back from his three-interception game at Atlanta with his most efficient performance as a pro in the 33-20 win over Washington. Newton was 18 of 23 passing, including an 8-for-8 effort in the second half when he had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3.

The win came in the first game of a three-game homestand, with Minnesota (1-6) and Tennessee (3-3) to follow. Newton was asked if it might have been a turning point for the Panthers.

I don't know. I'm hoping. But you don't want to have that thought of looking past anybody. In this league, everybody's dangerous,” Newton said.

We're playing a high-octane (Vikings) offense coming into this game. Yeah, they've got a rookie quarterback (Christian Ponder). But he did some impressive things versus the Packers. Everybody knows about AP (Adrian Peterson). And this defense, I think this is going to be the most talented D-line we've played all season, starting with Jared Allen. That name speaks volumes around this whole league.”

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 26, 2011 at 03:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)