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Carolina Panthers

Panthers-Cardinals Postgame Notes

The Series: With the 28-21 victory, the Cardinals ended a seven-game regular season losing streak against the Panthers, who lead the all-time series 8-4. Despite not being in the same division, Carolina and Arizona have faced each other every season since 2001 except one - 2006. In addition to their 11 regular season meetings, the two teams have played once during the postseason.

Regular Season Openers: This represented the eighth time in the franchise's 17-year history and the fourth time in the last five years that Carolina began the season on the road. The Panthers are 6-11 in regular-season openers with a 3-6 record at home and 3-5 mark on the road.

Coaching Debuts: Ron Rivera made his head coaching debut at Arizona. He is the fourth head coach in Panthers history and the third to start his tenure on the road. Here is how Rivera compares with other head coaches in their initial regular season game with Carolina.

Dom Capers 9/3/95 at Atlanta L (OT) 20-23
George Seifert 9/12/99 at New Orleans L 10-19
John Fox 9/8/02 vs. Baltimore W 10-7
Ron Rivera 9/11/11 at Arizona L 21-28

Opening Day Quarterbacks: The Panthers had a different starting quarterback on Kickoff Weekend for the second consecutive season as rookie Cam Newton opened under center after Matt Moore started to begin the 2010 campaign. Jake Delhomme made a team-record six starts at quarterback in regular season openers from 2004-09. Other opening day starting signal callers for Carolina have been Frank Reich (1995), Kerry Collins (1996, 1998), Steve Beuerlein (1997, 1999-2000), Chris Weinke (2001) and Rodney Peete (2002-03).

Record-Setting Rookie: No. 1 overall draft pick Cam Newton, playing on the same field where he led Auburn to the BCS National Championship in January, completed 24-of-37 passes for 422 yards and two touchdowns with one interception to produce a 110.4 quarterback rating.

He became the first rookie in NFL history to pass for more than 400 yards in his first career start and tied the NFL record for the most passing yards in a game by a rookie quarterback, previously accomplished by Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford versus Cleveland (11/22/09). Newton's 422 passing yards are the most by a rookie quarterback on Kickoff Weekend in NFL history, eclipsing the previous mark of 302 yards by Peyton Manning's for Indianapolis versus Miami (9/6/98), and the fifth-most all-time by any player on Kickoff Weekend. The 422 yards also set a Panthers rookie passing record, surpassing the previous mark of 335 yards by Kerry Collins at New Orleans (11/16/95), and ranks as the second most in team history behind Chris Weinke's 423 yards versus the New York Giants (12/10/06).


Newton threw both touchdowns to wide receiver Steve Smith. In the first quarter, he hooked up with Smith on a 77-yard bomb for his first career touchdown pass when Smith ran past Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes. It marked the second-longest completion by a rookie quarterback in Panthers history, bettered by an 89-yard touchdown from Collins to Willie Green versus Atlanta (12/17/95), and the fifth-longest pass play in team history. Just before halftime, Newton lofted the ball perfectly to Smith in the corner of the end zone for a 26-yard scoring strike after Smith beat cornerback Patrick Peterson.

The 77-yard touchdown pass is the longest first career touchdown by a No. 1 overall draft pick since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. The previous mark was 67 yards by Terry Bradshaw in 1970. Only four of the 19 quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall since the merger threw a 50+ yard touchdown for their first career touchdown. Besides Bradshaw and Newton, the only others to do it are Troy Aikman and Drew Bledsoe.

Newton also rushed for 18 yards and one touchdown on eight attempts and was sacked four times. He scored on a one-yard run, leaping over the top of the pile and into the end zone to culminate an eight-play, 80-yard drive. It represented the first rushing touchdown by a Panthers quarterback since a one-yard sneak by Jake Delhomme at Green Bay (11/30/08).

Here is how Newton compares with other rookie quarterbacks in their first NFL start for Carolina.

Kerry Collins 10/1/95 vs. Tampa Bay L 32 18 234 1 1 76.8
Chris Weinke 9/9/01 at Minnesota W 22 13 223 1 1 89.8
Randy Fasani 10/27/02 vs. Tampa Bay L 18 5 46 0 3 0.0
Matt Moore 12/16/07 vs. Seattle W 27 19 208 0 0 92.8
Jimmy Clausen 9/26/10 vs. Cincinnati L 33 16 188 0 1 53.6
Cam Newton 9/11/11 at Arizona L 37 24 422 2 1 110.4


Smith Catches Milestone: Wide receiver Steve Smith posted 178 yards and two touchdowns on a team-leading eight receptions to become the second player in franchise history to surpass 9,000 career receiving yards with 9,062, joining Muhsin Muhammad with 9,255 yards. The 178 yards stand as the third-highest total of Smith's career behind a team-record 201 yards versus Minnesota (10/30/05) and 189 yards at Baltimore (10/15/06). He scored on catches of 77 and 26 yards from quarterback Cam Newton. Smith ranks first in team history with 62 total touchdowns [54 pass, 6 return, 2 run], 54 receiving touchdowns and 33 games with 100 or more receiving yards and stands second with 628 receptions, 9,062 receiving yards, and 374 points scored.

Total Offense: Carolina amassed 477 yards of total offense on 403 yards passing and 74 yards rushing. It represented the Panthers' third-highest output ever behind the team-record 483 total yards tallied at Washington (10/3/99) and 478 yards generated at New Orleans (12/28/08).

The 403 net passing yards ranks as the second most in team history behind the record 418 yards versus the New York Giants (12/10/06). The Panthers (403 yards) and Cardinals (295 yards) combined for 698 net passing yards, the second most net passing yards, both teams, in a game involving the Panthers, one yard shy of the 699 yards by Carolina (324 yards) at San Francisco (375 yards) (12/8/96).

Streaking: Tight end Jeremy Shockey and wide receiver Steve Smith extended their consecutive game streaks with a catch. Shockey finished the game with three receptions for 51 yards and has caught a pass in all 122 regular season games he has played. Smith has recorded a catch in 60 consecutive games, the third-longest streak in team history behind Wesley Walls' 70 games from 1996-2001 and his own 68 games from 2002-06.

Ground Gains: Running back DeAngelo Williams rushed for a team-leading 30 yards on 12 carries, while running back Jonathan Stewart added 26 yards on seven attempts.

Takeaway/Giveaway: Carolina forced one turnover on a fumble. Linebacker Thomas Davis recovered a fumbled pitch from Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb to running back Beanie Wells at the Panthers 12-yard line in the second quarter to end an Arizona scoring threat.

The Panthers turned it over once on an interception to finish with an even turnover ratio. The one takeaway resulted in no points for Carolina, and the one giveaway led to seven points for Arizona.

Sakrete Sacks: The Panthers collected two sacks against the Cardinals. Defensive end Charles Johnson dropped Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb for an 11-yard loss in the first quarter. He has registered a sack in four consecutive games against the Cardinals and has corralled five career sacks against Arizona. Last year, Johnson led Carolina with a career-high 11.5 sacks and became the fifth player in team history to compile 10 or more sacks in a season.


Defensive end Greg Hardy victimized Kolb for a sack and forced fumble on the same play in the first quarter that resulted in a three-yard loss. During the 2011 season, Sakrete, a leader in concrete and concrete-related products, is donating $100 to the BVC Playground Build for every sack the Panthers record this season.

Mare Kicks Up The Charts: Kicker Olindo Mare scored three points against Arizona to move into 19th place in NFL history for points scored with 1,423, bettering the 1,422 totaled by Matt Bahr from 1979-95. He connected on all three of his extra point attempts. Mare also ranks 17th in NFL history with 328 made field goals. He placed two-of-four kickoffs in the end zone with two touchbacks.

Baker's Treat: Punter Jason Baker generated a gross average of 41.3 yards and net average of 24.4 yards with two inside the 20, one touchback and long of 56 yards on four punts.

Panther Cubs: Three rookies started for Carolina: quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackles Sione Fua and Terrell McClain.

Inactives: The following six players were inactive for the Panthers: quarterback Jimmy Clausen, fullback Jerome Felton, wide receiver Kealoha Pilares, cornerback Josh Thomas, linebacker Jason Williams and tackle Lee Ziemba. Carolina also released guard Max Jean-Gilles.

Note Cards: Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. It equaled the second-longest punt return by an opponent in team history, previously accomplished by Reggie Swinton for Detroit (12/21/03). The longest punt return by a Panthers opponent is 94 yards by Tramon Williams for Green Bay (11/18/07). Peterson's touchdown return marked the second time in the last three seasons that an opponent has returned a punt for a touchdown on Kickoff Weekend after DeSean Jackson returned a punt 85 yards for score in the 2009 regular season opener for Philadelphia (9/13/09).

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