NFL: Panthers 34, Chiefs 0
By Bret Strelow
CHARLOTTE ó Ken Lucas remembers rooting for the high-powered San Francisco 49ers as a teenager in Mississippi, but an upstart expansion team spoiled several of his Sunday afternoons.
Now that he’s a member of the Carolina Panthers, Lucas relishes his role on a dominant defense.
Carolina continued its resurgence with a 34-0 shutout of the Kansas City Chiefs at Bank of America Stadium. DeAngelo Williams scored three touchdowns, and the Panthers collected the most lopsided win in franchise history. They threatened to break several other records while holding Kansas City to 35 yards rushing and outgaining the Chiefs by a 441-127 margin.
Kevin Greene, Sam Mills and Eric Davis were standouts on one of the stingiest defenses in Panthers history, and Carolina swept the 49ers en route to the NFC West title in 1996. San Francisco also lost in its first meeting with the Panthers during their inaugural season of 1995.
“I just hated that team, but now I’m on that team,” Lucas said. “That’s just the model, to try to be like the ’96 Carolina Panthers defense.”
Carolina (4-1) held a 328-18 advantage in total yards midway through the third quarter Sunday, and the Chiefs (1-4) had negative rushing numbers before quarterback Damon Huard directed a drive into Panthers territory.
Lucas ended that series with an interception, Kansas City’s third turnover in four second-half possessions. The Chiefs, coming off a surprising win against Denver, played effectively enough with backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen at the helm in the fourth quarter to salvage some respect.
The Panthers established team records for total yards allowed (96) and rushing yards allowed (25) in 1995. The standard for first downs allowed in a game is seven, set twice in that same season, and Kansas City finished with eight even though it didn’t pick up its second one until 5:55 remained in the third quarter. Larry Johnson, who rushed for 198 yards against the Broncos, finished with 2 yards on seven carries.
“I never really felt the confidence in the unit like this, so I can’t really say it’s like a couple years back because, even then, I don’t think we had the group we have now and the attitude,” said defensive end Julius Peppers, a star on the 2003 team that reached the Super Bowl. “It’s a new feeling, and it’s a great thing.”
Kansas City’s first series summed up its struggles.
Right guard Adrian Jones committed a false start, Johnson lost 2 yards on a first-down rush, defensive end Tyler Brayton forced a fumble while sacking Huard and Charles Johnson batted a pass into the nearby goalpost.
Williams or fellow running back Jonathan Stewart touched the ball on every play of the next series, and Williams capped the short drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. He scored on a 25-yard reception and 32-yard run in the second quarter.
“Denver gave them hope, but we wanted to go out and from the start of the game take all hope away,” Lucas said.
The second half started just as poorly for the Chiefs.
Huard dropped back to throw on the first play, and Peppers smacked the ball out of Huard’s hands. Carolina’s Damione Lewis recovered the fumble at Kansas City’s 28, and an end-zone interception prevented the Panthers from adding to their 21-0 lead.
Carolina linebacker Jon Beason picked off a pass on the first play of the next possession, and John Kasay made a 32-yard field goal. Muhsin Muhammad showed a burst of speed on a 47-yard touchdown reception later in the quarter.
“We were a confident team after last week’s win,” Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said. “Then we come in here and act like we’ve never played before.”
Williams rushed for a career-high 123 yards, Jake Delhomme threw for 236 and Peppers recorded a sack for the third straight game.
The Panthers stymied a highly regarded running back for the second consecutive week ó Michael Turner gained 56 yards on 18 carries in Carolina’s 24-9 win against the Atlanta Falcons ó and surpassed a 33-point margin of victory achieved against Atlanta in 2005.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a game like this, and it’s obviously enjoyable,” Panthers coach John Fox said. “It’s probably as complete a game as we’ve played all year as far as offense, defense and kicking game.”