Panthers-Rams: What we learned

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The way the Carolina Panthers handled themselves in a feisty, confrontation-filled game with the St. Louis Rams made them proud.
The Panthers were most pleased that they ended up with a 30-15 victory, too.
"It was a great bonding game," Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "We kept our heads. Sometimes you have to step away in this game and don't get a personal foul."
Munnerlyn scored on the game's first snap and the offense eventually pitched in Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium.
St. Louis lost quarterback Sam Bradford to a fourth-quarter lower-body injury, and that just added to the ill feelings between the teams.
Munnerlyn returned an interception for the game's opening points as the Panthers (3-3) won for the second week in a row. The outcome snapped the Rams' two-game winning streak.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and Bradford each tossed one touchdown pass. Bradford, who threw for 255 yards on 21-for-30 passing, exited with an injury with 5:06 to play.
He tumbled as he ran out of bounds, tripped by Carolina safety Mike Mitchell, and hurt his left knee. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI exam.
"I'm praying for Sam," Rams tight end Jared Cook said. "Usually quarterbacks are protected when they're running out of bounds."
The tension seemed to build in the third quarter when St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn hit Newton after a handoff.
"It was a legal hit, just out there trying to make plays," Quinn said. "On that play, my job was to take the quarterback."
Newton said, "When you get hit like that, you have to stop to see if everything is OK."
From then on, there were countless post-whistle faceoffs.
St. Louis defensive end Chris Long was ejected with 9:45 remaining in the third quarter during a fracas that involved players from both teams.
Long said he apologized to his teammates but that they "understand I'm going to stand up for guys" on this team.
"We all could have kept our composure," Quinn said. "We're all grown men."
St. Louis was called for four second-half unsportsmanlike conduct or personal foul penalties.
"We did a good job of being the more composed team," Mitchell said. "We had to play disciplined. They wanted to try to pick a fight with us. They had four quarters to do that."
Newton completed 15 of 17 passes for 204 yards.
"The sad thing about it, I feel like I could have played a little bit better," Newton said.

What the Rams said
"It just got bad. Tempers flared. Things got out of control. What can you do? We just have to do a better job keeping our composure and not let them influence our play." -- Center Scott Wells.

What the Panthers said
"The challenge is to get in the ice tubs and get our bodies healthy as quickly as possible, and so we will be ready to roll against Tampa Bay." -- Offensive tackle Byron Bell, on Carolina playing a road game Thursday night against the Buccaneers.

What we learned about the Rams
1. The Rams showed a lack of discipline throughout the second half as they were hit with four unsportsmanlike conduct or post-whistle, personal-foul penalties. They seemed more than willing to stand up for teammates, but sometimes that got in the way of even giving the team a chance to mount a comeback. Offensive guard Harvey Dahl was particularly fiesty, especially after quarterback Sam Bradford went out with an injury.
2. Quarterback Kellen Clemens looked rusty in his late-game backup role after Bradford exited. Clemens completed two of four passes for 19 yards, taking two sacks. "Obviously, if called upon this week after a week of practice and an opportunity to work with the guys, we'll be ready to go," Clemens said. "When you see a person that you spend as much time with as I do with Sam and genuinely care about as a person ... it was not easy to see."

What we learned about the Panthers
1. Wide receiver Steve Smith remains the team's emotional leader, and he will not shy away from being demonstrative. He is still producing at a high level, racking up team highs of five receptions and 69 yards in the victory against St. Louis. Included in that was his 800th career catch. "It means a great deal to me," Smith said. "It would mean a lot less if I got my 800th reception and we lost, so it's much better to enjoy that win."
2. The Panthers can win with quarterback Cam Newton essentially managing the game rather than going out and making spectacular plays. They gained only 282 total yards Sunday. Newton was patient at times and did not force passes into tight coverages. "When you start seeing him doing those types of things to give us a chance to win, you know he has matured," coach Ron Rivera said.