Rapid Reactions: Panthers win second straight, defeating Cardinals, 31-21

Teddy Bridgewater

CHARLOTTE — Leading from cover to cover, the Panthers put together a complete performance to defeat the Cardinals, 31-21. With the win, Carolina evens its record at 2-2 to finish the first quarter of the season at .500.

Here are a few rapid reactions from Sunday.

FIRST QUARTER SUCCESS

The Panthers got on the board first with a 13-play, 66-yard opening drive, overcoming a few self-inflicted wounds to get in the end zone.

Wide receiver DJ Moore had a drop on the first play and later committed an offensive pass interference penalty. Then tight end Ian Thomas was flagged for a false start. But the Panthers were able to stay on the field because tight end Chris Manhertz rumbled down the field for a 17-yard gain on third-and-19. Then quarterback Teddy Bridgewater picked up six yards on fourth-and-2 with a bootleg run to the right.

Running back Mike Davis powered in his first touchdown run of the season from 1 yard out to give Carolina a 7-0 lead.

The early success continued after Carolina's defense forced a three-and-out. The Panthers had consecutive plays of at least 20 yards with a 23-yard completion to Moore on the left, followed by a 24-yard screen pass to wide receiver Robby Anderson. Bridgewater finished the drive with a slick 18-yard scramble for his first rushing touchdown of the year.

GIVEAWAY LEADS TO POINTS

The Panthers played giveaway-free football last week and rolled through their first two offensive possessions. But that changed on Sunday when Bridgewater threw his third interception of the season.

Bridgewater's pass was high and off-target for Thomas early in the second quarter, allowing cornerback Patrick Peterson to come up with the pick. The Cardinals took 10 plays to go 38 yards but were able to get a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyler Murray to tight end Jordan Thomas.

That was one of the Panthers' few offensive mistakes on a day when they punted only once.

ROOKIES COME THROUGH

Rookie defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Yetur Gross-Matos made key plays on a drive early in the second half.

Brown had a pair of run stuffs on the possession, the latter of which brought up third-and-2 from the Carolina 38. That's when Gross-Matos came around the edge and strip-sacked Murray. The ball went forward and was initially ruled a pass, but a replay showed Gross-Matos had jarred the ball loose before Murray punched it in forward with an empty hand.

Safety Tre Boston had a clear recovery to give Carolina an extra possession.

The Panthers fully capitalized on the opportunity, going up 28-7 with a 2-yard pass from Bridgewater to Thomas on the ensuing possession.

AREAS OF FOCUS LEAD TO SUCCESS

Though they won last week, the Panthers had a few areas of focus entering Week 4: red zone efficiency, third down offense, and third down defense.

Carolina put checkmarks in all three boxes.

The Panthers were 4-of-5 in red zone efficiency, a week after finishing 1-of-6 in the category against Los Angeles.

On third down, the Panthers finished 7-of-11 and they did it against an Arizona team that came in with the league's top-ranked third down defense.

The Panthers' defense kept Murray and the Cardinals mainly under wraps as well, with Arizona going just 3-of-9 on third down and averaging 4.8 yards per play.

View in-game photos from the Week 4 game between Carolina and Arizona at Bank of America Stadium.

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