Jimmy Clausen, as a rookie quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, is going through growing pains. Sometimes, that can benefit a rookie QB, depending on the team that he plays for.
But Clausen is learning in a baptism under fire-type scenario.
He did improve during Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints; however, recently signed placekicker John Carney (the 46-year old John Carney) booted three field goals, allowing New Orleans to escape past Carolina 16-14.
The Panthers benefitted from the Saints having a somewhat depleted rushing attack as Pierre Thomas was inactive, with Ladell Betts and rookie Chris Ivory running with the rock. New Orleans also turned the ball over at key times.
Saints QB Drew Brees, despite solid numbers, was pretty much stymied when it came to trying to capitalize within the red zone, going just 1-for-5.
The Saints drew (pun semi-intentional) first blood in the second quarter as Brees conencted with Lance Moore with a 4-yard touchdown pass, taking a 7-0 lead as a result. Two minutes and forty seconds later, Clausen would hook up with running back Jonathan Stewart on a 55-yard strike, tying things up at 7.
A 32-yard FG by Carney with just 1:13 remaining in the half would put New Orleans ahead 10-7, which would be the halftime score.
Carolina would take the lead in the third quarter on a 39-yard TD scamper by DeAngelo Williams, giving the Panthers a 14-10 lead with 9:42 left. Another 32-yard FG by Carney put New Orleans to within 14-13 with 4:36 left in the period. Carolina WR Steve Smith would leave the game with an apparent ankle injury, crippling the WR corps of Carolina’s.
Carney would connect on a 25-yard FG with 3:55 left in the game, giving the Saints a 16-14 advantage. Clausen nearly pulled off a near-Notre Dameish comeback as he converted a fourth-and-4 on a pass to David Gettis to the Saints 38 with 1:46 remaining; on fourth down at the New Orleans 44, Clausen tried to connect with Dwayne Jarrett along the sideline, but New Orleans cornerback Jabari Greer broke the pass play up, allowing the Saints to earn the victory.
Brees had a solid effort, going 33-of-48 for 275 yards with a TD while Clausen went 11-of-21 for 146 yards and a score. Ivory and Betts accounted for 117 of the Saints 121 rushing yards, 67 for Ivory and 47 for Betts; meanwhile, Williams led the Panthers rushers with 86 rushing yards and a TD.
Stewart led the Panthers receivers with a reception for 55 yards and a score while the Saints were led by Devery Henderson with 6 catches for 59 yards. Tight end Jeremy Shockey caught six for 58 yards.
New Orleans (3-1) will fly to Phoenix to take on the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday while Carolina (0-4) returns home to host the Chicago Bears – also next Sunday.