Final

Cardinals 12

(4-10, 1-6 away)

Panthers 19

(2-12, 2-6 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 19, 2010

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC 

1 2 3 4 T
ARI 0 3 0 912
CAR 6 7 6 019

Top Performers

Passing: J. Skelton (ARI) - 196 YDS, 1 INT

Rushing: J. Stewart (CAR) - 27 CAR, 137 YDS

Receiving: L. Fitzgerald (ARI) - 9 REC, 125 YDS

Panthers beat Cardinals to end seven-game skid

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Over nine seasons as coach of the Carolina Panthers, John Fox has made it a point to hide his emotions behind an avalanche of cliches, guarded answers and a tough guy persona.

Sunday was different.

Minutes after his league-worst Panthers celebrated the end of a seven-game losing streak with a hard-to-watch, but quite gratifying 19-12 win over the punchless Arizona Cardinals, Fox took a minute to soak in what was almost certainly his final home game on the job.

Securing an overall winning regular-season record, Fox left the field with his arms raised and fists clenched. He then hustled to the locker room, where captain Jordan Gross was waiting to hand him the game ball.

"We develop a lot of relationships here. There are a lot of high character guys in that locker room that I appreciate," Fox said. "It means a lot to me."

Later, Fox quickly grabbed a water bottle as he appeared to be on the verge of choking up.

"It was an emotional day," he acknowledged.

Denied a contract extension the past two years and seemingly at odds with the offseason roster-gutting that left the Panthers (2-12) short on talent and experience, Fox is coaching out the string in the last year of his deal.

This time, his youngsters came through for him in a performance that was just good enough to beat a similarly dysfunctional unit. And it didn't even hurt Carolina's draft positioning, as Cincinnati also won to keep the Panthers a game up in the race for the No. 1 overall pick.

Jimmy Clausen outplayed John Skelton in a matchup of rookie quarterbacks, throwing his first touchdown pass since Oct. 3. John Kasay kicked four field goals and Jonathan Stewart rushed for 137 yards.

Arizona (4-10), which was finally eliminated from playoff contention in the weak NFC West, mustered 43 yards rushing in their eighth loss in nine games. In his second start, Skelton threw an interception and lost a fumble.

"I think it's just forcing the ball sometimes," Skelton said. "I threw an interception on a ball that should have never gone to [Stephen] Spach. Those are plays that at a lower level, you can get away with. But when you come here they are going to make plays on defense."

The Cardinals got within 19-9 when Steve Breaston recovered teammate Tim Hightower's fumble in the end zone with 5:41 left. The 2-point conversion failed.

Arizona got a late field goal with 54 seconds left. But the Cardinals, who failed to recover a surprise onside kick to start the second half, saw Carolina's Jordan Senn recover their second try to seal Carolina's victory.

It was then that Gross told the equipment manager to save the game ball.

"I gave it to Fox. It was neat because he's given out a lot of game balls and he's not a guy that really talks about his own accolades and things," Gross said. "I think it meant a lot to him."

The game served as a painful reminder of how far and how quickly these franchises have sunk thanks to poor quarterback play. Less than two years ago the Cardinals forced six turnovers by Jake Delhomme in a 33-13 rout of the Panthers in the NFC divisional playoffs on their way to a surprise Super Bowl appearance.

Clausen was good enough get his first win in eight tries, completing 13 of 19 passes for 141 yards and no turnovers. Stewart took advantage of the league's 30th-ranked rushing defense, and Carolina pounced on Arizona's mistakes.

Skelton, a fifth-round pick from Fordham who got the job with Derek Anderson (concussion) sidelined, didn't get the help he received a week earlier, when the ground game and special teams dominated in a 43-13 win over Denver.

Skelton's interception led to a TD and a 13-0 deficit. He finished 17 of 33 for 196 yards.

"It seems every time we had a chance to do something, we made mistakes," coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "whether it was turnovers, running into the kicker, our onside kick was short."

Leading 6-0, the Panthers caught a break when Skelton inexplicably floated a pass into double coverage toward Spach that was easily intercepted by Sherrod Martin. On the next play, Clausen found an open Jeff King for a 16-yard touchdown, ending Clausen's streak of 202 passes without a TD.

By batting down a pass in the end zone on third down and recovering Skelton's fumble, Tyler Brayton led a solid Carolina defensive effort hours after the news he was fined $15,000 for leveling Atlanta's Chris Owens from off the field on a punt return in a 31-10 loss last week.

Those kind of days had become commonplace in a miserable season. It made Sunday that much more satisfying on an emotional day that still had its limits. Fox dismissed a suggestion he got sentimental on the drive to the stadium.

"I'm not quite that soft," he said.

Game notes


Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, 27, caught nine passes for 125 yards to go over 8,000 yards receiving. Only Randy Moss reached the milestone at a younger age. ... Cardinals KR LaRod Stephens-Howling left with a hamstring injury. Replacement Andre Roberts had a 47-yard return. ... Panthers CB Chris Gamble sat out with an ankle injury. ... Panthers DE Charles Johnson had a sack for a fifth straight game.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
ARI
CAR
1st Downs1116
Passing 1st downs
76
Rushing 1st downs
39
1st downs from penalties
11
3rd down efficiency
4-154-15
4th down efficiency
1-12-3
Total Plays5366
Total Yards218303
Yards per play4.14.6
Total Drives1112
Passing175126
Comp-Att
17-3313-19
Yards per pass
4.96.0
Interceptions thrown
10
Sacks-Yards Lost
3-212-15
Rushing43177
Rushing Attempts
1745
Yards per rush
2.53.9
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-31-4
Penalties4-396-58
Turnovers21
Fumbles lost
11
Interceptions thrown
10
Defensive / Special Teams TDs10
Possession23:0436:56

Passing Leaders

ARIC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Skelton17/331965.9013-21
CARC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Clausen13/191417.4102-15

Rushing Leaders

ARICARYDSAVGTDLG
Hightower6162.704
Wells8111.407
CARCARYDSAVGTDLG
Stewart271375.1035
Goodson10212.109

Receiving Leaders

ARIRECYDSAVGTDLG
Fitzgerald912513.9041
Breaston24221.0035
CARRECYDSAVGTDLG
LaFell33311.0017
Gettis33210.7029

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERARICAR
carFG10:26John Kasay 28 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 6 plays, 57 yds, 2:27
03
carFG0:17John Kasay 29 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 14 plays, 80 yds, 6:42
06
SECOND QUARTERARICAR
carTD8:49Jeff King 16 Yard Pass From Jimmy Clausen (John Kasay Kick is Good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 16 yds, 0:00
013
ariFG0:39Jay Feely 23 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 12 plays, 46 yds, 4:19
313
THIRD QUARTERARICAR
carFG12:16John Kasay 24 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 6 plays, 31 yds, 2:48
316
carFG0:32John Kasay 43 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 10 plays, 21 yds, 6:29
319
FOURTH QUARTERARICAR
ariTD5:51Steve Breaston Fumble Recovery (Tim Hightower Run For Two-Point Conversion is No Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 74 yds, 2:12
919
ariFG0:58Jay Feely 30 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 6 plays, 65 yds, 0:55
1219