NFL: Panthers’ Williams has career day vs. Chiefs
By Nick Bowton
CHARLOTTE ó DeAngelo Williams looked over his left shoulder toward Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, hauled in a swing pass on the right side of the field and turned back around to see no Kansas City defenders in the 30 yards between him and the end zone.
It’s a scenario Williams encountered often Sunday.
A third-year running back out of Memphis, Williams could have rushed for 10 yards and the Panthers still would have beaten Kansas City thanks to a suffocating defense. But Williams didn’t let the defense do all of the work, rushing for a career-high 123 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-0 shellacking.
He also scored on a 25-yard reception, accounting for all three first-half touchdowns in his best game as a pro.
“The O-line and (fullback) Brad Hoover,” said Williams, repeatedly deferring credit to his teammates. “Once you break that front seven, the corners are not really good tacklers traditionally. Once I got in the secondary, I just turned on the jets and kept running.”
Williams ran both over and around Chiefs defenders with ease in the first half, when he rushed for 97 yards. He ran for 5 yards on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage, capped Carolina’s second drive with a 10-yard touchdown run and finished with an average of 6.2 yards per carry.
Williams entered the game as the Panthers’ leading rusher at 50.2 yards per game, but he hadn’t scored a touchdown through the team’s 3-1 start. Rookie teammate Jonathan Stewart, meanwhile, came in averaging 49.2 yards and had four rushing TDs.
“Jonathan has been playing extremely well and has been getting the touchdowns,” Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme said. “I don’t think DeAngelo had scored yet before today, but that first 10-yard burst, he just hit it and went right through it.
“He really hit the holes hard and made some nice runs.”
Less of a power runner than Stewart, Williams still got tough yards up the middle when needed Sunday. He showed a knack for weaving his way for 5 or 6 yards between the tackles and bounced outside if he didn’t find a hole.
His final touchdown came on a 32-yard run 26 seconds before halftime. Williams took the handoff out of a shotgun formation, made a couple of cuts up the middle, broke a tackle attempt by Jarrad Page inside the 10-yard line and outran linebacker Derrick Johnson the rest of the way.
Williams didn’t get as many carries after halftime, but he did get one final first down when the Panthers faced a third-and-7 midway through the fourth quarter.
That rush gave him a new career-high yardage total in a game in which the Panthers rushed for a season-high 205 yards.
“Coach does a great job of rotating us,” Williams said of the two-back system with Stewart. “Whether it’s me or him, we just keep the pressure on the defense and try to create things. Jonathan’s a powerful runner. He gets in there and bangs in there, and I get in there and bang a little bit and cut or what have you.
“But I think we complement each other well, and when we’re back there, they’re on their heels.”