The reserve runner sure rewarded them.
Goings ran for a career-high 121 yards and three first-half scores and the Panthers jumped to a 28-point halftime lead in a 35-10 win against the Arizona Cardinals.
Muhsin Muhammad added two TD catches, the first with just 2 seconds left before the break, for the Panthers (3-7), who needed little more than a dominant first half to win their first home game of the season and their second straight game.
It was the kind of performance that was a Carolina trademark last year in its run to the Super Bowl. The defense shut out the Cardinals (4-6) in the opening half, and the Panthers kept the chains moving on the ground and with a handful of big plays through the air.
And Goings, who hadn’t run for a score in the past three seasons, led the charge. He nearly matched his season rushing total of 130 yards, and had 22 carries Sunday after running just 35 times all year.
“I’m a role player for this team,” he said. “It feels good to get carries and catch passes like that.”
The Panthers had few other options. Stephen Davis, who ran for more than 1,400 yards last year, is on the injured reserve list. So are running backs DeShaun Foster, Rod Smart and Joey Harris.
That left Goings, who suffered a high ankle sprain on the first day of training camp and had been trying to catch up ever since.
“Whenever we’ve needed him, he’s stepped up,” Carolina coach John Fox said. “He did in a big way today. We’ve had a lot of backs rotated in there throughout the season.”
Goings didn’t need much time to get Carolina’s offense moving. His first carry went for 24 yards, sparking a 96-yard scoring drive that ended with his 2-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter.
On Carolina’s next possession, Goings got to the outside and sprinted down the left sideline for a 57-yard score and a 14-0 lead. He scored his third touchdown by squeezing through the line for a 1-yard run late in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals looked bad from the start.
First-year coach Dennis Green benched quarterback Josh McCown, who started all nine games for Arizona. The move backfired as Shaun King struggled against the Panthers’ defense throughout the half.
King went 10-for-21 for 112 yards before the break with two interceptions. Colin Branch picked off both passes, returning the second one 76 yards to set up Goings’ 1-yard score.
King finished with 343 yards passing, most of it coming with the Panthers leading comfortably in the second half.
“We decided to start Shaun King because I think we’ve got to play better offensively,” Green said. “In 31 years of experience, I made the decisions that I think will help us win. And I’m probably right a hell of a lot more than I’m wrong.”
Carolina’s defense pressured King, sacking him four times and repeatedly forcing him to scramble. The Panthers also held the Cardinals to just 85 yards rushing, 26 coming from Emmitt Smith.
“We gave our offense an opportunity to put us up,” Carolina safety Mike Minter said. “And boy, did they deliver.”
Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme, who broke his right thumb in last week’s win against San Francisco, seemed comfortable in the pocket. He threw for 157 yards and found Muhammad over the middle for a 28-yard touchdown and a 28-0 lead just before halftime.
The Cardinals also did plenty to hurt themselves. They had 11 penalties for 100 yards in the half, including three penalties on one play that nullified a 44-yard touchdown pass from King to Anquan Boldin.
“I don’t even want to talk about penalties,” Smith said. “Unbelievable calls.”
Rookie Larry Fitzgerald had 92 yards receiving and a touchdown for Arizona. … Rodney Peete relieved Delhomme late in the game, marking the first time Delhomme had not taken a snap for Carolina since the first half of last year’s opener against Jacksonville. … Muhammad had six catches for 118 yards. … Panthers linebackers Will Witherspoon and Mark Fields combined for 25 tackles.