Carolina handled St. Louis 30-15, and kinda beat them up in the
process. But St. Louis was the one taking most of the swings.
Carolina made the plays it needed to win - starting off with a pick-six
of Sam Bradford by Captain Munnerlyn on the first play - and St. Louis
repeatedly shot itself in the foot, occasionally making big plays (like
a long Tavon Austin TD called back for Jake Long's tripping foul) and
being called for six personal foul penalties, most related to taking
swings at Carolina players. And that doesn't count the one Steve Smith
dodged from Jannoris Jenkins.
Already beaten up enough, one of those personal fouls came from Harvey
Dahl (his second) on Mike Mitchell (who, like Smith, happened to be
around a fair number of those fouls), who pushed Sam Bradford en route
to Bradford's ACL injury. The push was a legal hit, the scuffle that
ensued wasn't. DE Chris Long was ejected earlier in the game for
throwing a punch; Mitchell was punched on a separate play but that
player wasn't ejected.
Aside from the fights, football was played Sunday as well; Carolina did
most of the work there, leaving the Rams to frustrated jabs and dirty
play. Carolina, otherwise, played somewhat mistake-free football,
though after stopping the Rams on 4th and goal at the 1, Mike Tolbert
was stopped for a safety. That left, at one point, the weird score of
10-5, and that eventually became a similarly symmetrical 30-15.
Cam Newton was a near-perfect 15-17 for 204 and a score; had Smith not
had a drop and made a stretch for another yard at the goal, Newton
could've been 16-17 with two scores. Mike Tolbert took care of that
one, and had a shot at another at the goal that became a FG. That
shortened Tolbert's rushing average, which otherwise had well eclipsed
Deangelo Williams'; Williams was routinely stuffed but Tolbert tended to
hit the hole faster and harder on the average non-goal play. The Rams
did stack the line often, however, and a lot of Carolina's runs were
with a ten point lead or greater.
That left Newton open space, which he exploited. Smith got 5 of those
for 69 yards and a score (and his 800th catch). Greg Olsen and Brandon
LaFell pitched in as usual, and every receiver broke at least a long of
18 yards. Newton's 136 rating was his second consecutive over 100, and
his 88% completion percentage was the highest of his career. Newton
did, however, make mistakes attempting to be elusive on his two sacks,
giving up 11 and 12 yard sacks in which he tried to elude but ended up
only backing the team up further.
Defensively, it was all Mike Mitchell again - 8 tackles, a sack, 2
tackles for loss, and 2 forced fumbles. Thomas Davis pitched in 9
tackles again. Star Lotulelei pitched in an impressive six tackles,
including a couple for loss. Kawann Short had two stuffs early in the
game as well. Colin Cole starting at NT had a rare sack, and starting
ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy added one each (Hardy's also had a
forced fumble). Captain Munnerlyn picked up one of those fumbles to add
to his pick-six. Quintin Mikell gets credit for the hurry and
deflection that caused the INT.
On the downside, Josh Thomas (who remains a fantastic run defender) was
picked on for the called-back TD and another long Brian Quick pass;
otherwise it's hard to complain defensively. In at least one instance,
Thomas was playing press without a lot of help behind him, and just got
beaten. Thomas currently has the highest opposing QB rating of any
player at corner.
Newton's brutal efficiency led the day; Smith's score and almost-score
did a lot of the heavy lifting. Mitchell's big plays and attitude are
setting the pace lately; Munnerlyn's score set the tone.
I also wanted to address what's going on in St. Louis. Jeff Fisher's a
respected coach, but that team is remarkably dirty. Dirty teams, at the
least, have to be more disciplined. They're a power running team
without much running ability, and they're not going to get better with
Bradford out. This won't be a good team moving forward for the year.