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December 30, 2011

Pugh, Neblett out against New Orleans

   Defensive tackle Andre Neblett and safety Jordan Pugh will miss the Panthers' game Sunday at New Orleans as they continue to deal with concussion issues.

   Head coach Ron Rivera said Ogemdi Nwagbuo will start in Neblett's place along the defensive front while Jonathan Nelson, who had an interception last week against Tampa Bay will back up Charles Godfrey and Sharrod Martin at safety.

   Defensive end Charles Johnson may also miss the New Orleans game due to a back issue. Rivera said he plans to start Antwan Applewhite at defensive end if Johnson does not make the trip. A decision on Johnson's availablity is expected Saturday morning.

   The Panthers activated former N.C. State defensive tackle DeMario Pressley off the practice squad. The Panthers have also added former J.C. Smith player Kevin Sullivan to the practice squad.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2011 at 01:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 29, 2011

Panthers can have impact on playoffs

The New Orleans Saints have already clinched a playoff spot and at least one postseason home game and they're on pace to set the all-time total offense record Sunday if they can gain 219 yards, breaking the record set by the 2000 St. Louis Rams.

That's not necessarily the focal point for the Panthers, entering their regular-season finale against the Saints.

"I have no clue what's going on with that. I know their record (12-3)," defensive end Greg Hardy said.

"That really doesn't affect me, man. It's another week."

Head coach Ron Rivera said he's been pleased with how his team has approached the final week of practice knowing there's no postseason for the Panthers.

"You really want to come out and play them the best you can because of what we're trying to build and the attitude we're trying to have. To lose now would be disappointing," Rivera said.

"I think our guys have done a nice job. They've practiced well. I'm pretty excited about that, especially going into the last game...just trying to get them to understand we can make an impact in the playoffs. We may not be in but we can certainly impact them."

Posted by Observer Sports on December 29, 2011 at 03:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

December 28, 2011

Payton plans to start QB Brees against Panthers


   New Orleans coach Sean Payton said he and his Saints team have a simple philosophy regarding their regular-season finale Sunday against the Panthers in the Superdome:

  "Our plan, we're playing it full speed ahead," Payton said today on a conference call with reporters.

  There had been speculation that the Saints may rest some of their key players, including quarterback Drew Brees, who broke the NFL's single-season passing record Monday night against Atlanta. The Saints can still land the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs but it will require a victory over the Panthers and the unlikely event of the St. Louis Rams, with just two wins, upsetting the San Francisco 49ers.

  Asked specifically if Brees will start against the Panthers, Payton said:

  "I'm not announcing the starters but that's the plan. You can print that if you want to."

   Payton said the 12-3 Saints want to be sharp when the playoffs begin, whether they have a first-round bye or not.

  "We just met as a team and where we're at is we're still week to week trying to get better, trying to be in the best possible position for the playoffs and also improve as a team," Payton said.

   "There's a lot of things we need to improve on as we get closer to the postseason. We're looking forward to this week of practice and playing our last regular-season home game here.

   "Carolina presents a huge challenge in that they're playing real well. They're playing with a lot of confidence and we see that statistically and we see that on film when you watch them."

-- Ron Green Jr.


Posted by Observer Sports on December 28, 2011 at 03:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Cam Newton likely Pro Bowl-bound

Cam Newton was third in the fan voting for the Pro Bowl, but couldn't crack the top three in the final balloting, which also includes players' and coaches' votes.

But he was close enough. A league source said Tuesday evening Newton is the NFC's first alternate and is expected to be in Hawaii for the Jan. 29 game.

Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Eli Manning are the NFC selections. Rodgers and Brees quarterback arguably the top two teams in the NFC, while Manning can get the Giants in the playoffs with a win Sunday vs. Dallas.

So the odds are good one of those guys will be in the Super Bowl the following week in Indianapolis, and as such, will not be in Honolulu representing his conference.

Even if San Francisco -- or Atlanta or Detroit -- were to advance to the Super Bowl, there are always examples of players pulling out of the Pro Bowl. 

It sounds like the NFL wants Newton in Hawaii. He's one of the most exciting young players in the league, and is putting the finishing touches on a rookie season for the ages.

It Newton progresses as he should, it could be the first of many trips to Honolulu for No. 1.

--Joseph Person



Posted by Observer Sports on December 28, 2011 at 12:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

December 26, 2011

2012 schedule nearly set

After clinching third place in the NFC South by virtue of their 48-16 blowout of Tampa Bay, the Panthers' 2012 schedule is pretty well set.

Besides divisional games, the NFC South will be paired with the NFC East and AFC West next season. The Panthers also will face the third-place teams from the NFC North (Chicago) and NFC West (the loser of Sunday's Arizona-Seattle game).

Here's how it breaks down:

Home games: Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Dallas, New York Giants, Arizona/Seattle loser, San Diego, Kansas City.

Away games: Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Oakland, Denver.

(The NFL modified its formula for West Coast travel, beginning with the 2010 season, so teams wouldn't have to make two trips to the West Coast. The league paired Oakland with Denver, and San Diego with Kansas City, for teams facing the AFC West. The Panthers' AFC West destinations for next season were based on this year's schedule for NFC North teams, which played the AFC West.)

A couple of observations:

The Chicago trip will mark the third time the Panthers have faced DE Julius Peppers since Peppers left Carolina as a free agent. Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will get a chance to play his hometown Philadelphia Eagles and exact a little revenge on Andy Reid, who fired McDermott last offseason.

Cam Newton will go head-to-head with Tim Tebow, his former teammate at Florida, and the Eagles' Michael Vick, whom Newton admired growing up in Atlanta when Vick played for the Falcons.

And of course, the Panthers will match up against former coach John Fox for the first time.

The full schedule will be released later. Given Newton's success and popularity – and the innovative nature of the Panthers' offense – expect to see a couple of prime-time, Sunday and Monday night games.

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on December 26, 2011 at 04:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

WR Naanee out; Saints' gametime still not set

   The Panthers already long injury list got longer today when head coach Ron Rivera announced that wide receiver Legedu Naanee will miss the season finale Sunday at New Orleans due to broken bone in his foot.

   Naanee apparently reinjured his foot when it got stuck after he made a catch near the Tampa Bay goal line on Saturday. Because it's the final week of the season, Rivera said he did not anticipate Naanee being placed on the injured reserve list.

    Without Naanee, it will likely mean more playing time for Seyi Ajirotutu, Armanti Edwards, Kealoha Pilares and Darvin Adams.

   In other injury news, defensive tackle Andre Neblett suffered a concussion against Tampa Bay and will be evaluated through the week as will safety Jordan Pugh, who was a late scratch against the Bucs due to a concussion.

   Defensive end Charles Johnson is expected to be limited at practice this week due to overall soreness while safety Charles Godfrey's troublesome shoulder continues to improve.

   FLEX UPDATE: The starting time for the Panthers game at New Orleans Sunday remains undetermined.

   Should the Saints beat Atlanta tonight, the kickoff will remain at 1 p.m. EST. If the Falcons win, the kickoff will be shifted to 4:15 p.m.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 26, 2011 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

December 24, 2011

VIDEO: Ron Green Jr. on Panthers' domination

Observer reporter Ron Green Jr. and Cinesport's Brian Clark discuss the Carolina Panthers' dominating win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  


Posted by Observer Sports on December 24, 2011 at 07:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Panthers have reason to celebrate

   To borrow a line from Jim Carrey's 'Grinch' movie,' that was holiday.

   The Panthers' 48-16 victory over the lost in the woods Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the kind of dominating win that hasn't been seen around here often these last few years. It looked and felt like a celebration, a nice homefield send-off for a team that has continued to improve through the season.

   It helped that Tampa Bay was terrible -- losing a fumble on its first play from scrimmage set the tone -- but the Panthers were a team that looked completely confident in what it was doing. Offensively, they were virtually unstoppable and the defense -- patched together again with the late scratach of safety Charles Godfrey and the loss of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn -- kept finding ways to give the ball back to the offense.

   With four wins in their last five games, the Panthers are on a fast finish that should bode well for next season. There may be a sobering dose of reality with the season finale at New Orleans next Sunday but it's one more chance for the Panthers to put an exclamation point on an encouraging season.

   If they lose at New Orleans, it won't change what they've accomplished to this point. A year ago, things were a mess. Not any more.

   That was evident in the mood and the result Saturday at Bank of America Stadium.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 24, 2011 at 06:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Panthers have a ball, rout Bucs 48-16

The Carolina Panthers gave a demonstration in domination, overwhelming Tampa Bay 48-16 today at Bank of America Stadium.

In sending the Bucs to their ninth straight loss, the Panthers took advantage of multiple mistakes and turnovers by Tampa Bay as they won for the fourth time in their past five games.

Quarterback Cam Newton broke the NFL record for passing yards by a rookie while throwing three touchdown passes and running 49 yards for another as the Panthers improved to 6-9 with a game remaining at New Orleans next Sunday.

Jonathan Stewart also moved into second place on the team's all-time rushing list and had a touchdown reception as the Panthers rolled to their most lopsided victory of the season.

On the second play from scrimmage in the second half, strong safety Jonathan Nelson -- who was promoted from the practice squad this week -- intercepted a deflected Josh Freeman pass and returned it 20 yards to the Tampa Bay 32-yard line.

Three plays later, DeAngelo Williams took an option pitch from Cam Newton and raced 22 yards for a touchdown that stretched the Panthers' lead to 27-10. Another Tampa Bay turnover -- a Kellen Winslow Jr. fumble at the end of a trick play littered with penalty flags against the Bucs -- set up another Carolina touchdown.

Steve Smith had a 23-yard run on a reverse to start the drive then Newton threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Stewart on a fourth-and-one as the Panthers opened a 34-10 lead with 3:24 remaining in the third quarter.

The game could hardly have started better for the Panthers, who jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first seven minutes. On the game's first possession, the Panthers made it look easy, going 80 yards on nine plays, getting a touchdown and 7-0 lead in an eight-yard run by DeAngelo Williams.

In the process, Newton broke Peyton Manning's long-standing record for passing yardage by a rookie, setting the mark on a seven-yard completion to Brandon LaFell.

The Bucs helped the Panthers when LeGarrette Blount fumbled a handoff from Josh Freeman on Tampa Bay's first play from scrimmage, setting up a 21-yard Olindo Mare field goal.

Playing without starting cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and strong safety Charles Godfrey, the Panthers' secondary was a patched together unit.

The Bucs took advantage by mounting a 15-play touchdown drive on its second possession, getting the touchdown on a four-yard pass from Freeman to Arrelious Benn.

The Panthers answered with a 91-yard touchdown pass from Newton to LaFell, who pulled the ball away from defensive back E.J. Biggers and raced downfield, getting a key block from Steve Smith for the longest completion in franchise history.

The touchdown stretched the Carolina lead to 17-7 with 13:06 left in the first half. The teams traded field goals from there, sending the Panthers into the locker room with a 20-10 lead.

The Panthers piled up 110 rushing yards in the first half, the 13th consecutive 100-yard rushing game.


Posted by Observer Sports on December 24, 2011 at 04:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Panthers roll to 41-10 lead, end of 3rd quarter

  The Panthers used a pair of third-quarter turnovers by Tampa Bay to take a commanding 41-10 lead into the fourth quarter today at Bank of America Stadium.

   Quarterback Cam Newton, who set the NFL rookie passing record in the first quarter, capped the big quarter with a 49-yard touchdown run with 24 seconds remaining in the quarter. 

   Safety Jonathan Nelson, just activated from the practice squad this week, intercepted a deflected Josh Freeman pass on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter and returned it 20 yards to the Tampa Bay 32-yard line.

   Three plays later, DeAngelo Williams took a pitch and went 22 yards around right end for a touchdown that put the Panthers ahead 27-10.

    Later in the quarter, Tampa Bay's Kellen Winslow lost a fumble when he tried to vault Carolina tacklers and Andre Neblett recovered at the Carolina 39-yard line. The Winslow fumble came at the end of a trick play that included a variety of penalties against the Bucs. It led to an 11-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Jonathan Stewart for a 34-10 lead.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 24, 2011 at 03:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)