Black and Blue Review

Black and Blue Review

Carolina Panthers News and Coverage for the Digital Age

Panthers Pull Away From Titans in Hammer Time

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First it was Andrew Luck, then, Aaron Rodgers. In the span of six days, each veteran came within yards of handing the Carolina Panthers a last-minute loss.

Late in Sunday’s fourth quarter, all Marcus Mariota could do was pad his stats.

After the Titans’ rookie had a mostly comfortable first half, completing eight of his 12 passes for 110 yards, the Panthers made Mariota look like a guy playing just his seventh game for a 2-6 team. From the start of the third quarter to Tennessee’s final drive, Mariota threw an interception and completed just three passes for a Titans’ offense that gained just one first down and 14 yards.

"I think we did a really nice job of making some adjustments,” linebacker Thomas Davis said. "The last few weeks, we haven’t finished the game like we were supposed to. We just wanted to go out and make sure we finished this game and didn’t allow teams to score in the fourth quarter."

Most of the Panthers’ halftime adjustments centered around what was happening on the edges.

Mariota and running back Dexter McCluster were able to break outside contain a handful of times in the first half, with Mariota gaining 24 yards on four carries and McCluster picking up 44 yards and a touchdown on four touches. After halftime, Mariota didn’t earn another rushing yard while McCluster added just eight yards.

The Panthers also took away Mariota’s favorite target. Tight end Delaine Walker ended the first half with three receptions and 52 yards, the same stats he had when the game ended.

"The first half wasn’t what we wanted it to be. To be able to come in at halftime and make the corrections and go out and finish the game off was big for us,” defensive end Jared Allen said. "We have to take that next step as a defense, the next step as a team. We have to be able to finish games off when we have a lead and we were able to do that."

While the defense was doing its job, eventually, so did the offense.

Despite holding the ball for 10:40 of the third quarter, the Panthers padded their lead by only a field goal. Then, early in the fourth, they failed to turn a 1st-and-goal from the 5 into a touchdown. But on their next drive, the Panthers drove 64 yards in 10 plays to finish off the Titans.

Of those 10 plays, only the first was a pass. The rest came from the Panthers’ ‘hammer' offense, one that failed to hit the Colts and Packers on the head.

"We had a list of things that we wanted to get better with this week, and hammer was one of them. I think we did a good job of coming out in hammer time, putting our nose in the dirt and just grinding and trying to get positive yards,” fullback Mike Tolbert said.

"Their record doesn’t indicate how good they really are. We knew we had a challenge ahead of us. We came in the locker room at halftime, made some adjustments, and obviously they worked. We’re not satisfied by any means, but at the same time, we know we can definitely play a lot better than we did today."

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