Carolina Panthers

Beason looks good filling leadership role

Saints defenders Will Smith, bottom back, and Charles Grant combine to sack Panthers quarterback David Carr in the first half.
Saints defenders Will Smith, bottom back, and Charles Grant combine to sack Panthers quarterback David Carr in the first half.

NEW ORLEANS -- The Carolina Panthers might have found themselves a new leader on defense, with rookie Jon Beason taking over at middle linebacker and looking like he's more than capable there.

According to the unofficial stats, Beason led the Panthers with 13 tackles in his debut in the middle, after starting the first three games on the weakside.

"He did a tremendous job running the defense," coach John Fox said. "Those are key things when a young guy steps in and carries his weight."

Beason did more than that, playing with an enthusiasm the Panthers have lacked. They tried converting backup outside linebacker James Anderson last week, but that didn't work, so they accelerated their time-frame on Beason -- who they chose in the first round this year with the thought of eventually replacing Dan Morgan. His eight-day contract holdout slowed his progress, but he seems to have caught up quickly.

"We tried to do something different last week and you live and you learn in this business just like you do in any business," Fox said. "We felt like we wanted to make a change. That was part of the reason we brought him in here. He was late getting to camp and figuring out the outside linebacker position, but this week we felt like it was time."

• SIGNS OF PROGRESS: They didn't want to put injured starting quarterback Jake Delhomme in the game, but they did let him throw Sunday, his first such activity since straining his right elbow two weeks ago against Atlanta.

He wasn't gunning 50-yarders or anything, but at this point, they'll take progress in increments. He dressed and was the emergency third, but there was no indication he was about to play, even after David Carr went down in the first quarter.

• PEP TALK: Defensive end Julius Peppers still doesn't have a sack after five games, but he made a bigger impact by blocking a 20-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, which propelled the Panthers to the game-tying score.

Peppers downplayed the talk of his block, saying: "I just happened to get a hand up and the ball hit me on that one.

"It is gratifying to make plays and be a part of the win, but it's not like I had lost confidence in what I knew I could do and what I know I can still do," Peppers said. "It was just a matter of going out and doing it."

Fox said he talked his star Saturday night, offering some advice about keeping his slow start in perspective.

"He's a fine football player and I told him something last night that Michael Strahan broke the all-time sack record and at the end of five games he had none," Fox said of his former New York Giants pupil.

The only problem with Fox's anecdote was that it's not factually correct.

In 2001, when Strahan broke the record with 22.5 sacks, he was shut out for the first two games against Denver and Kansas City. He then ripped off 3.0 against New Orleans, 1.5 against Washington and 4.0 against St. Louis, giving him 8.5 after five games.

• NICE TO MEET YOU: Rookie quarterback Matt Moore spent training camp in Dallas, and hadn't gotten much attention here with a high-profile backup like Carr in front of him. But he was in the spotlight and in the mix, completing a 43-yard bomb to Keary Colbert on his first NFL pass. Of course, his second was almost picked off, but he did lead the Panthers to a field goal before Carr returned.

Moore admitted he was "a little nervous," when he saw Carr go down.

"But I just said to myself, 'I've got to get this going. I've got to move the offense,'" he said. "So the nerves kind of came and went quickly and I was OK after that."

• EXTRA POINTS: John Kasay's game-winning field goal was his 11th in his 17-year career. And though it wasn't as dramatic, his pre-trip speech to the team was also cited by teammates as a key. He spoke to them on Saturday after walk-through, as veterans often do before trips. ... The Panthers notched their first two interceptions of the year, with Richard Marshall getting one in the first quarter and Chris Harris in the fourth. They had none in the first four games. ... Steve Smith was back to returning punts, since rookie Ryne Robinson hasn't impressed. Smith didn't do much either, taking his one attempt 6 yards. ... In addition to Delhomme, the inactive list contained no surprises: Running back Nick Goings, offensive linemen Evan Mathis and Frank Omiyale, linebackers Morgan and Adam Seward and defensive ends Otis Grigsby and Charles Johnson.