Jarrett, Williams seal deal for Panthers
By Bret Strelow
CHARLOTTE ó Steve Smith came up with the first third-down conversion on the Carolina Panthers’ game-ending drive.
He issued challenges and acted as a cheerleader as the series closed in satisfying fashion.
Wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett and running back DeAngelo Williams made critical plays in third-and-long situations as the Panthers ran out the clock in a 27-23 victory against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Arizona punted with 5:57 remaining and didn’t regain possession.”That is the name of this game ó timing and momentum,” Panthers coach John Fox said.
The final drive began at Carolina’s 20-yard line, and Smith made a 10-yard reception on third down from the 27. The Panthers faced a third-and-10 from their 37 when quarterback Jake Delhomme looked in Jarrett’s direction.
Jarrett took a hard hit from safety Adrian Wilson after making a grab for 17 yards. Smith persuaded Jarrett to leave the field under his own power so the clock could continue to run.
“The pain was excruciating,” Jarrett said. “He hit me right on the hip, so it was kind of tough getting up. Steve was yelling at me to get up, get up, get up. I heard him like I was walking into the light, and I got up.”
The Panthers were six seconds away from the two-minute warning when they snapped the ball again.
Smith walked to the bench during the mandated break and congratulated Jarrett.
“Steve has been encouraging the whole season,” Jarrett said. “He’s just been like a big brother.”
Jarrett, in his second year out of Southern Cal, entered Sunday’s game with 10 career catches. He drew criticism from Smith during a turbulent first year that included an offseason arrest for driving while impaired.
An injury to receiver D.J. Hackett pushed Jarrett, who had been inactive for four consecutive games, back into the lineup against Tampa Bay on Oct. 12.
“Dwayne was 20 years old when we drafted him last year,” Delhomme said. “He got paid a lot of money early on. Things were too easy. He had to sit back and watch. He had a little issue in the offseason, but he’s grown up and done well. Even when he was inactive, he worked his tail off at practice instead of going in the tank.
“A guy’s body language tells you a lot. He didn’t sulk. He stayed positive, and look what happened.”
Delhomme was able to take a knee following Williams’ game-clinching carry with 1:45 left.
The Panthers ran a draw on third-and-13 from the Arizona 49, and Williams appeased Smith by gaining 15 yards.
“I said I was going to get those 13 yards, and he was like, ‘I want to see it then; show me something,’ ” Williams recalled. “When we picked up the 13 yards, I was looking for him.”
The Panthers again played without starting offensive linemen Ryan Kalil and Jeff Otah, but Williams managed to rush for 108 yards and one touchdown.
He stepped behind center four times and gained 23 yards on direct snaps.
“Coach called his number,” Smith said, “and he answered it every single time.”