Browns 12

(1-4, 1-2 away)

Panthers 20

(3-2, 2-1 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, October 8, 2006

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC 

1 2 3 4 T
CLE 3 0 3 612
CAR 7 7 3 320

Top Performers

Passing: C. Frye (CLE) - 173 YDS, 2 INT

Rushing: D. Foster (CAR) - 24 CAR, 106 YDS

Receiving: K. Johnson (CAR) - 5 REC, 67 YDS, 1 TD

Peppers leads Panthers' defense in win over Browns

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Keyshawn Johnson sneaked off to the side of the tunnel, got onto his knees and genuflected as Julius Peppers was introduced to the crowd before the game.

Scouts Inc.'s take ...
The Panthers played a mistake-free game but continue to struggle with third-down efficiency, which kept the Browns in the game.

Again, the Panthers relied on DeShaun Foster (above) and their power running game to set up the passing attack. The Panthers did good job of spreading the field with their multiple groupings, which forced the Browns to play with seven defenders in the box, creating better running lanes for Foster.

Defensively, the Panthers controlled the line of scrimmage as left defensive end Julius Peppers disrupted the flow of the Browns' offensive game plan. By relying on their four-man rush, the Panthers confused quarterback Charlie Frye with their matchup zones on the back end and single-zone blitzes. That resulted in two crucial turnovers that were huge in the outcome of this game.

It was fitting, because Peppers and the Carolina defense bailed out the offense Sunday.

Peppers had a sack, forced a fumble and hit quarterback Charlie Frye five other times, and Richard Marshall returned an interception for a touchdown as the Panthers beat Cleveland 20-12 Sunday, even though Johnson and Steve Smith failed to have big games against the Browns' banged-up secondary.

"Steve and I were using the restroom and as we came out, the team was already on the field," Johnson said. "We were stuck in the tunnel, but I thought maybe we should go out with them. So I thought we would go out there and mess with him and praise him."

For good reason. Coming into the game tied for the league lead with five sacks, Peppers was a nightmare for Frye, who was 26-of-43 for 173 yards and two interceptions, the last by Mike Minter that iced it. The Browns managed only four field goals by Phil Dawson.

"There is not another 290-pound guy that can move, that's as flexible or as strong as this guy," said defensive end Al Wallace, who also had a sack.

Carolina (3-2) held the Browns to 98 yards rushing in winning its third straight despite numerous dropped passes on offense and going 0-for-10 on third down.

The Browns (1-4) played without their starting cornerbacks. Gary Baxter missed his third straight game with an injured chest muscle, while Leigh Bodden (sprained ankle) was scratched.

Brodney Pool and Daven Holly started for the Browns, who also lost cornerback Daylon McCutcheon for the season to a knee injury in training camp. Holly then limped off the field late in the game.

Still, they held their own as Johnson had five catches for 67 yards and Smith was held to six catches for 62 yards. But DeShaun Foster rushed for 106 yards.

"Overall, I thought [the secondary] did pretty well," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "Even though Keyshawn did catch a touchdown pass, we were right on him on that one."

Smith, who went over 4,000 yards receiving with a second-quarter catch, had three drops, including one in the end zone in the third quarter that led to a field goal.

"I didn't have a very good game. I hold myself to a high standard, and I didn't play up to par today," Smith said.

The Panthers took a 7-3 lead thanks to Frye's eighth interception of the season. His pass bounced off Dennis Northcutt's hands and Marshall picked it off, racing 30 yards down the left sideline.

"Once the ball tipped ... I got it and I only saw [teammate] Chris [Gamble] next to me," Marshall said. "My eyes got big and I knew I was to the house."

The Panthers extended the lead to 14-3 late in the second quarter on Jake Delhomme's 17-yard pass to Johnson, who outjumped Pool in the right corner of the end zone.

In the closing seconds of the first half, Peppers sacked Frye, forced a fumble and recovered it, but John Kasay missed a 53-yard field goal.

"It was one of those games. I felt like I played well today," said Peppers, who was playing on a tender ankle.

Joshua Cribbs, who had kickoff returns of 65 and 53 yards in last week's come-from-behind win in Oakland, returned a kickoff 64 yards and a punt 34 yards in the second half, both leading to field goals.

"I'm upset with myself. I felt that I had to put us on the board," Cribbs said.

The Browns were hurt when they lost Northcutt to a rib injury in the third quarter and Reuben Droughns, who rushed for a career-high 193 yards against Carolina two years ago with Denver, was held to 65 yards on 18 carries.

Delhomme was 20-of-29 for 170 yards and no interceptions. He was sacked only once even though Carolina again played without injured center Justin Hartwig.

Panthers rookie running back DeAngelo Williams left in the second quarter with a right ankle injury. But with Peppers dominating, the Panthers never felt threatened.

"We knew what that offense was going to do," DT Mike Rucker said. "There were times when from watching film we knew exactly we were going to do and we were beating them to the punch."

Game notes

Panthers cornerback Ken Lucas, who was not in the starting lineup last week due to poor tackling caused by a neck and shoulder injury, started Sunday. ... Smith joined Muhsin Muhammad as the only receivers to go over 4,000 yards receiving with Carolina ... Thanks to the gloomy weather, there were more than 10,000 no-shows.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs1715
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays6858
Total Yards248288
Yards per play3.65.0
Total Drives1415
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-21-3
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs01

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders

Smith Sr.177.007

Receiving Leaders

Smith Sr.66210.3020

Scoring Summary

cleFG5:33Phil Dawson 41 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 12 plays, 57 yds, 6:19
carTD3:28Richard Marshall, 30 yd interception return (John Kasay kick is good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 30 yds, 0:36
carTD4:33Keyshawn Johnson, 17 yd pass from Jake Delhomme (John Kasay kick is good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 73 yds, 2:57
carFG10:16John Kasay 24 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 62 yds, 3:41
cleFG8:10Phil Dawson 47 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 4 plays, -1 yds, 2:06
cleFG12:57Phil Dawson 22 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 9 plays, 45 yds, 4:12
carFG4:05John Kasay 19 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 9 plays, 39 yds, 5:38
cleFG0:11Phil Dawson 32 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 9 plays, 43 yds, 1:22