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Carolina Panthers fans make Nashville feel like home

Carolina Panthers fans traveled well to Tennessee, and quarterback Cam Newton rewarded them by tossing his cleats and jersey into the stands following a 27-10 victory over the Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
Carolina Panthers fans traveled well to Tennessee, and quarterback Cam Newton rewarded them by tossing his cleats and jersey into the stands following a 27-10 victory over the Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

I hadn’t seen so many Carolina Panthers jerseys at a road game since I was last in Atlanta. At least a third of the 63,591 fans at Nissan Stadium cheered for Carolina. They had more to cheer and often made more noise. When Luke Kuechly made a tackle (he had a team-high eight) fans filled the air with “Luuuuke!”

“I heard it,” Kuechly says. “Our fans were great.”

Many of the fans had good memories, and their jerseys proved it. They wore the numbers of former Panthers Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith, Kevin Greene and the great Sam Mills.

▪  Quarterback Cam Newton, who was not sacked last week, was sacked on three straight plays Sunday. The Titans appeared to have more players on the field than the Panthers. They blitzed, they attacked and they gave Newton little time to pass and Jonathan Stewart little room to move. Then offensive coordinator Mike Shula began to call more quick hitting passes, and order was restored.

▪  I asked fullback Mike Tolbert what fans who look at the Panthers’ box scores, but don’t watch their games, miss.

“That we have a myriad of ways to win,” Tolbert says. “Some weeks the defense holds the other team to 10 points, like they did today. Some weeks the offense scores 37 points, like we did last week. We have each other’s backs.”

Tolbert says that being a Panther this season “is like working your dream job. You can’t wait to go to work every day, whether it’s Wednesday for practice or Sunday for games. There’s no jealousy, there’s no politics. You just play the game you love.”

▪  Ted Ginn Jr. returned a second-quarter punt 87 yards for a touchdown. He took off with those perfect sprinter’s strides of his, found room, broke a tackle and scored. I’d say Ginn was the fastest 30-year-old in Charlotte, the Carolinas and the world, but I’ve used that description too many times, and some of you would remember. The punt was called back because of a block in the back by Joe Webb. Had Webb not made the block, Ginn likely still would have scored because he’s the fastest 30-year-old in – well, you remember.

“Oh, man,” Ginn says. “I wanted to show these guys I still had it.”

They know.

▪  When Carolina fans began to chant “MVP” late in the fourth quarter, they didn’t name a specific player. The assumption is that they were talking about quarterback Cam Newton. But, cornerback Josh Norman, could they have been talking about somebody else, even somebody on the bench such as, I don’t know, you?

Norman thinks and laughs and says, “I’m kind of leaning that way.”

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