Carolina Panthers

Panthers grab second straight at home

CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers knew they didn't have to do much to beat Seattle.

Other than, you know, be perfect.

It was hardly a cure-all, and won't have much impact on the story of the season, but the imperfect team played as impeccably as it was able Sunday, beating the Seahawks 13-10 at Bank of America Stadium.

"Today was a matter of guys playing, for the most part, flawless," rookie linebacker Jon Beason said.

The defense needed to and it did, allowing the potent Seahawks just a cosmetic touchdown late, 44 rushing yards and no semblance of momentum all day.

But the surprise of the day was the Panthers' offense -- with rookie Matt Moore becoming the fourth starting quarterback of the year -- doing enough to keep the Panthers in the kind of games they've given away lately.

"This game is a lot about confidence; it's a lot about belief," Panthers coach John Fox said. "I think our offense did an excellent job of kindling that belief, and I think it kept our defense going.

"We played well in spots this year; I thought today was the most complete against a very capable opponent."

For the most part, the Seahawks looked like a team with an early wake-up call, a little bleary-eyed from kicking off at 10 a.m. Pacific time. While the Panthers certainly had a hand in that, that they scored two touchdowns less than they average points spoke to their own issues.

"It was a lousy game," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "We don't think we played a very good football game."

Perhaps not, but the crowd from Seattle shouldn't rain on the Panthers' parade.

The announced attendance of 51,288 watched the home team win its second home game in a row -- a streak! -- after losing the previous seven. That wasn't lost on a team tired of explaining why it's been so bad at home, tired of wondering why it was that way.

"This is one of those days you live for -- it was fun today, that's the way it's supposed to be," defensive end Mike Rucker said. "It was very important for the morale, and I would bet that most people didn't give us a chance to win that ball game. It was good because it was at home, too. We're thankful for our fans that came out today. It was chilly and windy, but hopefully they saw a good ball game.

"They saw a team that's not quitting, that's fighting, and not laying down trying to look to next year. Hopefully we got that message out there."

That's what Sunday was about, more than anything.

As ownership sits silent about the future, the rest are left to speculate on the direction of a team which had high hopes -- at least before quarterback Jake Delhomme's elbow exploded in September.

The questions have become about the future of Fox, the roster and the direction the team's pointed, more than anything that can be accomplished in the present.

If Fox could, he'd stake his claim to Sunday if there's going to be a referendum on his employment, because his Panthers played exactly to his model, and if his players were playing for his job, they did exactly what he'd have wanted them to.

"We don't want anyone to quit on us, we're not going to quit on the city of Charlotte, the fans or quit on coach Fox," safety Chris Harris said. "He's too good of a coach for us to do that to him."

They played on edge, constantly leaning on the Seahawks, sacking quarterback Matt Hasselbeck three times, pressuring him many more times and causing a late fumble.

They played with emotion, with incandescent cornerback Richard Marshall ascending to his rightful place in the starting lineup and falling on the decisive late loose ball.

They also played it safe on offense, running often rather than well, piling up a sufficient 114 yards while carrying it a necessary 38 times. The anomaly of the day was they held a huge advantage in time of possession, owning it more than 10 minutes longer than the Seahawks (35:22-24:38).

So while the early results weren't good, it all set up DeAngelo Williams' 35-yard touchdown run with 1:17 left, the first touchdown of the day and the thunderbolt that decided this one.

"The run game, it's usually a full-game effort," tackle Jordan Gross said. "It's usually not as good in the first as it is in the fourth quarter.

"It helped us to keep giving them the body shots."

Still, the first haymaker of the day was delivered early by the offense, when Moore hit rookie tight end Dante Rosario for a 54-yard completion. That it led to a missed field goal (into a bizarre, gale-force cross-wind) didn't matter as much as that it proved the offense had a pulse. It let the defense know on this day, the offense might do something.

"That sparked it," Beason said. "It gave them a sense that this could play and we're going to be all right; that was huge."

So was the defense.

After being abandoned by the offense so many times, the defense played as though it had to pitch a shutout. The Seahawks didn't get on the board until midway through the fourth quarter. They were limited to 3-of-12 third-down conversions and nothing deep in the passing game (with a long reception of 25).

"I think today, we played relentless," Marshall said. "Then Matt went out and played one of the best games, probably some of the fans had seen this year. I mean, he was throwing the ball, controlling the game.

"That helped us out a lot. That kept our defense off the field, kept us fresh, so we could do our job."

Seattle 0 0 0 10 -- 10

Carolina 0 0 0 13 -- 13

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