Carolina Panthers

Panthers blockers get their due after big victory

Jonathan Stewart was half of the duo that helped the Panthers set a team record for rushing yards Monday in a win over the Bucs. Stewart had 115 yards and DeAngelo Williams added 186.
Jonathan Stewart was half of the duo that helped the Panthers set a team record for rushing yards Monday in a win over the Bucs. Stewart had 115 yards and DeAngelo Williams added 186.

CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were alone at the end of all the highlights.

But they're smart enough to know you don't run for 299 yards and four touchdowns alone, and they were quick to sing the praises of their blocking after Monday's 38-23 win over Tampa Bay.

After almost every question, Williams would mention his linemen, and fullback Brad Hoover, who paved the way for the record night. Bottom line, they were more physical than the Bucs.

"Our O-line and receivers and fullback took upon themselves to open holes for us tonight," Williams said. "We're only as good as the O-line. That's an easy question. I'm going to go where they take me.

"I put all the credit on their shoulders and Brad Hoover's."

For their part, the guys in front of him were clear -- they planned to try to maul the Buccaneers all night.

"They are a good defense, and they have only given up one (touchdown) until this game," Hoover said. "But we felt the best way to attack them was to run right at them. ... A lot of our plays, we try to see how they're trying to play us. We noticed some things early on, and kept hitting and hitting and hitting them, and then the outside runs came. When we were able to hit those, guys were able to make plays and finish them.

"You can't believe it's against Tampa, first of all. It's huge. It's a testament to what our offense has tried to do all year, come out and hang our hat on the run, be physical and hit you in the mouth. For the most part, we did that."

"We wanted to hit the ball downhill against them, set some creases vertically, and I think Stewart and DeAngelo did an outstanding job of just taking what was there and just running," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "End of the day, it turned out pretty fun."

That's the best word for it, because their yardage total was cartoon-like, something none of them could have expected.

"Yeah, that's a lot of yards," left guard Travelle Wharton said with a grin when the number 299 was mentioned to him.

It was the kind of physical performance even the guys who get paid to stop it had to admire.

"Man those boys were making holes big enough for a Cadillac to drive through," defensive tackle Damione Lewis said.

"I could appreciate that game," safety Chris Harris added. "It takes the will from a defense when you can't stop a team rushing. We've been through it, it's like 'Geez, can we please get a stop?' For us to do it to another opponent is huge."

FLEX APPEAL: As expected, the Panthers' Dec. 21 game at New York has been flexed into the primetime spot on NBC. Though it seems a natural, there was some hesitation on the league's part to approve a second straight Giants appearance on the showcase game (they play Dallas this week under the lights).

The Dec. 21 contest was originally scheduled to be a 4:15 p.m. kickoff.

If the Giants and Panthers hold serve this week against the Cowboys and Broncos, the game could decide who gets home field advantage in the NFC.

Earlier this month, this week's game against Denver was moved to the 4:15 p.m. time slot on CBS. The Panthers' regular-season finale is at New Orleans

KEEPING IT LEVEL: The Panthers are well aware of the implications after Monday's win, and know that if they win out they would enjoy games in Charlotte throughout the playoffs. Considering they're undefeated at Bank of America Stadium this season (for the first time since 1996), that's something they long for.

"The proof's in the pudding," linebacker Jon Beason said. "We're 7-0 at home this year, 9-0 including the preseason. You come in here, it's going to be a tough game."

But home or road, the fact they control their own destiny is the key.

"It's on us, nobody can mess it up but us," Harris said. "We don't have to wait on somebody to lose, it's all in our hands."

But you could tell from the post-game comments that they're trying to quickly steer their attention toward Denver, to keep the newfound acclaim from getting the better of them.

"People remember what you do in December and this was a big statement," Panthers coach John Fox said. "I like the way our guys met that challenge. I just don't want them to drink this Kool-Aid they are about to go into and come back ready to work and realize how we got to this point."