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December 31, 2012

Waiting game continues for Rivera

It appears Ron Rivera is going to survive “Black Monday.”

Beyond that, Rivera's future remains uncertain.

While seven of his coaching peers were fired Monday, the Panthers' second-year said he's waiting to meet with owner Jerry Richardson about his fate.

Rivera said he was not sure when the meeting would take place, and it could be as soon as today. But team sources said Richardson did not want to make a rash decision, adding it might be Wednesday before he visits with Rivera.

“As I've said, I'd like to have the opportunity to have the job. And that's pretty much it,” Rivera said in his usual Monday press conference. “We'll go from there and see.”

The Panthers (7-9) won five of their last six games to finish in second place in the NFC South, a game better than Rivera's first season. But they were 0-7 in games decided by a touchdown or less before Sunday's 44-38 win at New Orleans.

When Richardson fired general manager Marty Hurney in November, he told Rivera he wanted to see the team trend upward over the final 10 weeks of the season. The Panthers were 6-4 after Hurney's firing, although only two of the wins came against teams with winning records.

Rivera highlighted what he called the positives: Quarterback Cam Newton's continued development, rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly's place atop the league's tackles list, Greg Olsen's receiving records among Panthers' tight ends and DeAngelo Williams' club-record 210 rushing yards against the Saints.

“There are so many good things that have come from the development of this team and the direction this team is heading,” Rivera said. “When I look back at this year and reflect on it, I'm most certainly to reflect on how we finished and the things that we've done.”

Rivera, 50, would not say whether Richardson told him if the hiring of a GM would play a role in his future. Rivera said the GM hiring process would begin today.

With former New York Giants GM Ernie Accorsi consulting on the GM search, the Panthers are expected to consider two candidates with the Giants – director of college scouting Marc Ross and senior pro personnel analyst Dave Gettleman.

Interim GM Brandon Beane is expected to get an interview, and could remain with the team in some capacity.

Meanwhile, for Rivera, the waiting game continues.

With a chance to state his case publicly a final time, Rivera said, “I'll just say this, I think we are better today than we were when I first got started.”

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on December 31, 2012 at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

December 30, 2012

Video: Carolina Panthers top New Orleans Saints in season finale

DeAngelo Williams rushed for 210 yards and two TDs and Mike Tolbert rushed for three scores to help the Carolina Panthers edge the New Orleans Saints 44-38 in the season finale for both teams.

Posted by Charlotte Observer on December 30, 2012 at 09:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Huge second half propels Carolina to 44-38 victory in season finale

NEW ORLEANS—The Carolina Panthers saved the best for last.

In the final game of the 2012 season, the Panthers topped New Orleans 44-38 while racking up a season-high 530 yards of total offense.

DeAngelo Williams rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns to lead the team while quarterback Cam Newton went 16-for-33 for 248 yards.

The Panthers jumped to an early 10-0 but allowed the Saints to score 17 points in the second quarter, entering halftime down 17-13.

The Saints came out to start the second half and drove 80 yards in eight plays to take a 24-13 lead before Carolina’s offense exploded.

With a strong rushing attack, Carolina put up 31 second-half points that went unanswered by New Orleans until midway through the fourth quarter.

Newton went down with a left ankle injury in the third quarter but returned five snaps later.

The Panthers finish the season at 7-9 after winning the final four games.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2012 at 04:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Saints tighten game to 44-38 in final minutes

Score: Panthers 44, Saints 38

Scoring play: A 33-yard swing pass from Drew Brees to Darren Sproles.

Drive: 4 plays, 80 yards, 1:16

Time of game: 2:52 in the fourth quarter.

Worth mentioning: The Panthers have one timeout remaining. The Saints have none.


Score: Panthers 44, Saints 31

Scoring play: A 42-yard field goal by Graham Gano.

Drive: 4 plays, 5 yards, 1:02

Time of game: 4:08 in the fourth quarter.


Score: Panthers 41, Saints 31

Scoring play: A 9-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Marques Colston.

Drive: 10 plays, 81 yards, 3:13

Key play: On 4-and-10 from the Carolina 30, Brees found Lance Moore for 17 yards to continue the drive and get the Saints to the Panthers' 13-yard line.

Time of game: 5:10 in the fourth quarter.


Score: Panthers 41, Saints 24

Scoring play: A 12-yard touchdown rush by DeAngelo Williams.

Drive: 1 play, 12 yards, :06.

Key play: Armanti Edwards fieled the Thomas Morstead punt at the Carolina 19 and ran essentially untouched until he was knocked out of bounds by Morstead at the 12-yard line for a return of 61 yards.

Time of game: 8:23 in the fourth quarter.


Score: Panthers 34, Saints 24

Scoring play: A 1-yard touchdown run by Mike Tolbert.

Drive: 9 plays, 80 yards, 4:36.

Key play: On a 6-yard pass to Louis Muprhy, Turk McBride pressured Cam Newton and rolled up his left ankle. Newton had to go out of the game for five snaps before returning with the Panthers at the New Orleans 12.

Time of game: 10:16 in the fourth quarter

Worth mentioning: Carolina has 490 yards of total offense today, which is by far the most they've had in a game all season. The franchise record for yards in a game is 543, which was set in Chicago last season


Score: Panthers 27, Saints 24

Scoring play: A 1-yard touchdown run by Mike Tolbert.

Drive: 3 plays, 36 yards, 1:18

Key play: Charles Godfrey picked off Drew Brees for the quarterback's first interception of the game. Godfrey climbed the ladder to get the pick at the Saints 36-yard line. Three plays later, the Panthers were in the end zone.

Time of game: 2:29 in the third quarter.

Worth mentioning: The game is starting to get chippy. There have been two scrums in this quarter. Steve Smith got into it with Elbert Mack on an earlier series, and after Gano's extra point the two teams teams had some words before going to the sidelines.


Score: Saints 24, Panthers 20

Scoring play: A 54-yard touchdown run by DeAngelo Williams.

Drive: 4 plays, 80 yards, 1:37

Key play: Greg Olsen caught a short pass from Cam Newton but fumbled the ball in bounds. It appeared the Saints recovered the ball. The ruling on the field was a complete pass, with the fumble coming after Olsen was down. Interim head coach Joe Vitt challenged the ruling, and the replay official found Olsen did lose the ball before making contact with the ground. But the referee said the replay could not confirm the Saints controlled the fumble, possibly because the whistle may have been blown before Johnny Patrick could pick up the loose ball. The Panthers got the ball back on the 23-yard line.

Time of game: 8:48 in the third quarter.

Worth mentioning: This is Williams' first game of the season with at least 100 rushing yards. He last did that in Week 5 of last year. Williams has 160 today, and he's only the second player on the Panthers (Cam Newton) to have at least 100 yards rushing in a game this season.


Score: Saints 24, Panthers 13

Scoring play: A 19-yard pass from Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham. 

Drive: 8 plays, 80 yards, 4:15

Key play: A 51-yard pass from Brees to Lance Moore. Brees got great protection in the pocket and aired it out for Moore, who caught the ball after incidental contact with the defensive back. 

Time of game: 10:45 in the third quarter.

Worth mentioning: D.J. Campbell may have had his worst defensive series there. Campbell was the defensive back that Moore caught the 51-yard pass. He also tried to blow up Graham on the touchdown catch and ended up on his back.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2012 at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Halftime: Saints 17, Panthers 13


The Saints scored a pair of touchdown in a 43-second span in the second quarter to take a 17-13 halftime lead on the Panthers in the season finale for both teams at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Two plays after Drew Brees hit Marques Colston for a 4-yard touchdown pass to bring the Saints to within 10-7, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma picked off a Cam Newton pass and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead for the Saints.

Panthers kicker Graham Gano made 2-of-3 field goal attempts, hitting from 20 and 31 yards, but pushing a 54-yard attempt wide right.

Garrett Hartley connected on a 53-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

The Panthers jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Mike Tolbert, one play after DeAngelo Williams ripped off a season-long 65-yard run.

Williams had 7 first-half carries for 107 yards, the first time a Panthers running back has had a 100-yard rushing game since Williams' 115-yard effort against the Saints on Oct. 9, 2011.

Brees completed 10 of 18 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown.

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2012 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gano hits 31-yard field goal, Panthers trail Saints 14-13

Score: Saints 14, Panthers 13

Scoring play: A 31-yard field goal by Graham Gano.

Drive: 9 plays, 60 yards, 3:52.

Key play: A 12-yard pass to Greg Olsen from the Saints 27. On 2-and-7, Newton found Olsen over the middle to get the Panthers in the red zone.

Time of game: :44 in the second quarter.


Score: Saints 14, Panthers 10

Scoring play: A 18-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jonathan Vilma. Carolina was setting up a screen to DeAngelo Williams when Vilma stepped in front of Cam Newton's pass and went untoched into the end zone.

Time of game: 4:31 in the second quarter.

Worth mentioning: That's the second interception returned for a touchdown by a Panther opponent this season. Chicago picked off Newton in the fourth quarter of their Week 8 match.


Score: Panthers 10, Saints 7

Scoring play: A 7-yard pass from Drew Brees to Marques Colston.

Drive: 7 plays, 76 yards, 3:04.

Key play: A 39-yard pass to Lance Moore. Moore crossed in the middle of the field on the 2-and-6, caught the ball and raced down the near sideline before being pushed out of bounds.

Time of game: 5:14 in the second quarter.

Worth mentioning: With that touchdown, Drew Brees is now only the second quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 40 touchdowns in two seasons. Dan Marino is the other quarterback.

Score: Panthers 10, Saints 0

Scoring play: A 1-yard touchdown run by Mike Tolbert.

Drive: 3 plays, 82 yards, 1:12

Key play: A 65-yard rush by DeAngelo Williams. From the Carolina 34, Williams burst through the B gap and went down the far sideline before being wrestled out of bounds just before the pylon.

Time of game: 8:18 in the second quarter.

Worth mentioning: Newton's line hasn't held up very well so far. Newton has been hit as he's thrown four times and sacked once. It's a patchwork offensive line, though, with the absence of Geoff Hangartner and injury to Amini Silatolu. 


Score: Panthers 3, Saints 0

Scoring play: A 20-yard field goal by Graham Gano.

Drive: 15 plays, 76 yards, 7:06.

Key play: A 16-yard pass from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen. On 3-and-7, Newton hit Olsen past the sticks to get to the Saints 2. It was Olsen's second catch of at least 11 yards on the game.

Time of game: 5:41 in the first quarter.

Worth mentioning: One of the Panthers' biggest goals for this game is to keep the ball out of the hands of Drew Brees. The 15-play, 7-plus minute drive helps that cause. 

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2012 at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Four Panthers starters inactive vs. Saints

NEW ORLEANS--If the Carolina Panthers are to finish second in the NFC South, they're going to have to do it without the help of four starters.

Carolina will be without RB Jonathan Stewart, C Geoff Hangartner, LB James Anderson and DE Greg Hardy for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints.

Stewart will miss his fourth game with a high ankle sprain. Starting in his place again will be DeAngelo Williams. Hangartner (sprained foot) will be replaced by Jeff Byers while Thomas Austin will get the start at left guard for the recently injured Amini Silatolu.

Anderson has been dealing with a back injury since the Kansas City game and will be the season finale. Hardy is dealing with a death in the family, per a league source, and did not make the trip with the Panthers. In place of Hardy could be rookie Frank Alexander or recently acquired Mario Addison.

Also inactive for the game is punt returner Joe Adams, who injured his ankle last week against Oakland. Captain Munnerlyn or Armanti Edwards could see time at punt returner. QB Jimmy Clausen is the other inactive.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2012 at 11:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 29, 2012

Hardy dealing with family issue, unlikely to play

(Update: A league source says Hardy has been dealing with a tragic death his family and is unlikely to play against the Saints. The Panthers essentially told Hardy to take as much time as he needs.)


Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy did not make the trip to New Orleans with the team and his status for Sunday's game against the Saints is in doubt.

Hardy was excused from practice all week while dealing with an undisclosed family issue, which Panthers coach Ron Rivera characterized as serious. Rivera said Friday that Hardy was helping his mother with the issue, but declined to elaborate.

Attempts to reach Hardy and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, were unsuccessful Saturday.

The Panthers moved Hardy from probable to questionable on the official injury report.

A Panthers' spokesman said Hardy did not accompany the team on its charter flight Saturday and was uncertain whether Hardy would play against the Saints.

Hardy leads the Panthers with a career-high 11 sacks and 23 quarterback pressures. He has been the Panthers' most versatile defensive lineman, shifting to tackle in certain, pass-rush packages.

Rookie Frank Alexander and Mario Addison, who was signed off Washington's practice squad on Dec. 4, are the Panthers' backups at defensive end.

--Joseph Person



Posted by Observer Sports on December 29, 2012 at 06:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 28, 2012

NFL fines Cam Newton for kick vs. Raiders, also fines Hardy and Godfrey

The NFL levied two fines against Cam Newton for his conduct in the Panthers' win against Oakland on Sunday.

The Observer reported late Thursday that Newton had been fined $21,000 for abusive conduct toward a game official. Joe Person reported Friday that Newton was also fined $10,000 for kicking Raiders DT Tommy Kelly.

The kick came after Kelly had combined with Desmond Bryant for a sack in the second quarter. Newton kicked at Kelly, who then held Newton down and received a flag for unnecessary roughness. The quarterback said after the game he was trying to get up as quickly as possible and did not intend to kick Kelly. (Photos via NFL Rewind.)


Defensive end Greg Hardy was fined $25,000 for his hit on Carson Palmer. Hardy hit Palmer as he threw in the first quarter, knocking Palmer out of the game and subsequently the rest of the season.


Hardy was fined $15,750 earlier in the season for hitting Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III in the head following a throw.

Also getting fined was safety Charles Godfrey for his hit on a defenseless receiver. The NFL fined Godfrey $21,000 for hitting Rod Streater in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game.


That was Godfrey's second fine of the year, as well. He was docked $7,875 for a chop block against Dallas in Week 7.

Head coach Ron Rivera said Friday he expects the players to appeal the fines. No Raider was fined from any action on Sunday.

--Jonathan Jones and Joe Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 28, 2012 at 03:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Panthers have 3 starters questionable for Saints' game

The Panthers could be working with a patchwork offensive line Sunday in the finale at New Orleans.

Center Geoff Hangartner, who has missed the past two games with a sprained foot, did not practice all week and is listed as questionable.

The Panthers already are without Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil, who went on injured reserve in October, and left guard Amini Silatolu, who dislocated his wrist last week against Oakland.

Thomas Austin, a second-year player from Clemson, will make his first career start in place of Silatolu. Jeff Byers again will get the nod at center if Hangartner can't play, coach Ron Rivera said.

Austin struggled last week after replacing Silatolu. But Rivera said he has looked better in practice this week.

Two other starters are listed as questionable: running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) and outside linebacker James Anderson (back). Rookie punt returner Joe Adams, who appeared to lose his spot with a fumble against the Raiders, also is questionable with an ankle injury.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 28, 2012 at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)