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Sunday, December 15, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Carolina Panthers

By David Newton


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A few thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 30-20 victory against the New York Jets:

What it means: By taking care of business against the Jets, and assuming St. Louis completes its win against New Orleans, the Panthers (10-4) still can win the NFC South. They would need a home victory next week against New Orleans and a road win at Atlanta -- assuming the Saints don't lose out -- to claim the division title and get a first-round bye. So all the woe-is-me after the 31-13 loss to New Orleans a week ago was for naught.

Stock watch: Running back DeAngelo Williams can say what he wants about not caring how many carries he gets as long as the team wins, but his career numbers show he gets into a better rhythm with 15 or more carries. The topic came up this past week with Jonathan Stewart out with a knee injury. Williams responded with 81 yards on 15 carries, and 87 yards receiving on three catches, including a 72-yard touchdown.

Weak link: Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn didn't take kindly to Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes saying the Carolina secondary was the weak link of the defense. He let the Jets know it with two sacks, equaling the total he had during his first four-plus seasons in the NFL, and an interception returned for a touchdown.

Riverboat Ron: Coach Ron Rivera has earned a reputation for going for it on fourth down, but gambling on fourth-and-3 with 7:55 left in the third quarter and a 16-6 lead seemed like a stretch. He showed a lot of faith in his defense, but that group let him down as the Jets answered with a touchdown to pull within 16-13.

Block party: Jason Williams picked a good time to give the Panthers their first blocked punt of the season. It came with just over 12 minutes remaining and Carolina clinging to a 16-13 lead. Mike Tolbert's 1-yard touchdown run made it 23-13.

Worth repeating: I said this in the halftime report, but it is worth repeating. Carolina's wide receivers have been among the best in the league at blocking downfield all season. Brandon LaFell showed why. He completely tied up cornerback Dee Milliner to allow Williams to complete the 72-yard touchdown catch and run that put the Panthers up 13-6 with 3:29 left in the half.

What's next? The Panthers and New Orleans Saints meet in Round 2 at Bank of America Stadium. The Saints dismantled Carolina 31-13 a week ago in New Orleans to end the Panthers' eight-game winning streak.