The smog cleared around the Coliseum on Sunday afternoon, but the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams offenses never came out of the haze.
On a day when defenses dominated, the Panthers (3-5) squeaked out a 13-10 victory.
“It’s not pretty, and in most cases throughout the year all games are not going to be pretty,” said quarterback Cam Newton. “I am just happy and proud. Everybody just kept pushing though, and just did their job.”
Carolina scored its only touchdown in the first quarter, on a 9-yard bullet down the seam from Newton to tight end Greg Olsen. From there it was all field goals – missed and made – for both teams until the final minute.
The first half was filled with almost.
Rams quarterback Case Keenum overthrew Brian Quick on a wide-open route that would have been a touchdown if not for sailing past the receiver’s fingertips, and Los Angeles settled for another punt.
Panthers kicker Graham Gano missed a 48-yard field goal to give the Rams the ball back with 29 seconds left, and set up another 55-yard attempt for kicker Greg Zuerlein with four seconds in the half. He missed for the second time in the game, wide right.
“I felt like we were going to need points and Greg felt really comfortable there, he just mis-hit it,” said Rams head coach Jeff Fisher of the two misses.
The teams slogged through the third quarter until linebacker Thomas Davis went airborne to pick off Keenum with about 10 seconds left in the period.
The Panthers moved to a third-and-2 at the Los Angeles 11, but defensive tackle Aaron Donald sacked Newton, forcing the Panthers to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Gano. That gave Carolina a 10-0 lead with 11 minutes, 12 seconds to play.
Keenum drove Los Angeles for a 25-yard field goal that cut the lead to 10-3, but the Panthers answered, with Gano’s 37-yard field goal pushing the lead to 13-3 with 3:23 to play.
A Keenum to Kenny Britt touchdown pass completed a 15-play, 75-yard drive with 34 seconds to play, but Carolina recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
Three who mattered
Mario Addison: Defensive tackle Addison tried to set the tone early for the Panthers with a batted ball on third down and a sack on Keenum on third down, both in the first quarter. He added another third-down sack on Keenum in the third quarter and helped hold the Rams to 59 yards rushing.
Cam Newton: He could not consistently connect with his wideouts and finished 20 for 32 for 225 yards and the touchdown to Olsen. He also used his legs but they were largely ineffective (seven rushes for 16 yards).
Aaron Donald: Donald, who entered the game with 38 quarterback pressures (most in the NFL) and three sacks, proved to be a constant hassle for Newton and Carolina’s offensive line. He finished with two sacks, two hurries, two tackles for loss and four total tackles. He also was a part of a defensive front that stuffed the Panthers’ run effectively, holding them to 59 yards.
▪ The Rams started inside their 10 on two consecutive drives in the first quarter. The first came off a downed punt at the 3 by Colin Jones, and Los Angeles went three-and-out on the following series. The second came off a penalty on a reverse play that moved the Rams backward. Addison sacked Keenum on third down to force another three-and-out.
▪ Los Angeles had a 75-yard bounce-and-roll punt in the first quarter, courtesy of receiver Ted Ginn Jr. failing to catch the punt. Carolina got a first down on its next series only after pass interference was called on Rams defensive back DeMarcus Joyner, but could not capitalize on the fresh set of downs.
▪ Neither Carolina’s featured back nor Los Angeles’ had any room to run in the first half. Rams running back Todd Gurley was held to 35 yards on 10 carries, and Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart had 8 yards on nine carries. Gurley finished with 48 rushing yards on 12 carries; Stewart had 42 yards on 15 carries.
▪ After several consecutive overthrows and miscues by Keenum, Los Angeles fans began standing and chanting “We want Goff” in hopes that the Rams’ first-round pick out of Cal, Jared Goff, might see some game action.
▪ Notable faces at Sunday’s game included all-time basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and WNBA MVP Candace Parker, as well as 93-year-old Jim Hardy, who was a quarterback for Southern California and is a veteran. Rapper “The Game” was also present.
▪ With Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil inactive, Gino Gradkowski got his first start as a Panther. He was blown up on third down in Carolina’s first drive, which led to a sack on Newton and a three-and-out. He also had a block-in-the-back penalty in the third quarter.
▪ Carolina finished the first half with a 7-0 lead, averaging just 17.3 yards per drive. Los Angeles averaged 25.9.
▪ Colin Jones, who made a big play on special teams early, suffered a concussion and had to leave the game.
▪ Los Angeles got early boos from its home crowd after a 55-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right to open the game.
They said it
“I’ve never heard of a pretty loss.” – Newton, when asked if someone would describe the game as ugly.
“You know what Luke (Kuechly) says, is that he’s ‘O-L-D.’ ” – coach Ron Rivera’s surprise at seeing Davis jump so high for his interception.
“Yeah, they have a right to feel however they want to feel. I’m always the type of person that, I’m glad the fans are there and the stadium is full. In one ear and out the other, but we are frustrated too that we aren’t scoring points. We have to score more points, so I understand.” – Keenum, on hearing the crowd chant “We want Goff!”