Panthers rally for first win, 23-20 over 49ers

Panthers rally for first win, 23-20 over 49ers

Credit: Jeremy Igo

Panthers rally for first win, 23-20 over 49ers

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by MIKE CRANSTON / Associated Press

WCNC.com

Posted on October 24, 2010 at 4:36 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 2:49 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Carolina Panthers celebrated like San Francisco's successful team at the expense of the city by the Bay's downtrodden club.

Sure, the stakes weren't nearly as high as the baseball Giants, but after going nearly 10 months without a win, they weren't apologizing for the exuberance.

After the 49ers lost Alex Smith to an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, the Panthers forced backup David Carr into a critical error in the final minute Sunday. Richard Marshall's interception led to John Kasay's 37-yard field with 39 seconds left and Carolina beat San Francisco 23-20.

Moore threw for 308 yards and two scores in his second chance as a starter, helping to end the worst start for the Panthers (1-5) since they lost their first seven in 1998.

"To get a taste of how it feels, you saw those guys celebrating for the baseball," Moore said of the Giants clinching a World Series berth Saturday. "That is what it was like without all the bottles. It was awesome. Guys loved it."

There was nothing but concern for the 49ers (1-6), whose shockingly disappointing season took a new twist with Smith's left shoulder injury on their minds during their long overnight flight to London for next week's game against Denver.

"It's definitely the AC, I think. It's very similar," Smith said, referring to the acromioclavicular joint and injury that cut short his 2007 season. "But I don't know to what extent. There's not really much to say right now."

While Smith awaited an MRI Monday, the Panthers were still trying to grasp just how they pulled out the win in a frantic fourth quarter, which came after Smith was injured on Charles Johnson's sack just after halftime.

The Panthers tied it when rookie David Gettis, who had dropped a touchdown pass earlier in the fourth quarter on fourth down, made a diving 23-yard TD grab with 1:53 left.

Marshall's pick on the ensuing possession gave Carolina the ball at its own 43. Moore, who had an interception returned for a TD earlier in the quarter, found Brandon LaFell for 35 yards to set up Kasay's winner.

It was the Panthers' first victory since Jan. 3 against New Orleans, which included an 0-4 preseason.

"There's an old TV show called 'Wide World of Sports,"' said embattled Panthers coach John Fox, who is in the final year of his contract. "Their mantra was the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Unfortunately, we've experienced too much agony up to this point. It's nice to see the smiles of a winning team."

It sure wasn't easy.

Moore, benched after Week 2 and given the job back after rookie Jimmy Clausen struggled, too, seemed to make a game-turning error when he threw a poor dump-off pass into Ray McDonald's gut.

The 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive tackle rumbled over Moore on his 31-yard touchdown return that put the 49ers up 20-13 with 12:52 left.

"It was my second touchdown in two years so I'm proud about that," McDonald said. "But we came out with a win today. We just aren't finishing games."

The Panthers then had a drive that seemed to stall at the San Francisco 16 with just under 6 minutes left. But the normally conservative Fox decided to go for it on fourth-and-9.

Moore found Gettis wide open in the center of the end zone -- and he dropped the pass. It looked as if the Panthers, who had scored two points in the fourth quarter all season, were finished.

"I'm thankful that I got a second chance," Gettis said.

The sixth-round pick had eight catches for 125 yards and his first two NFL touchdowns, by far the best performance from a Carolina receiver not named Steve Smith this season.

"When you have a drop like that with the circumstances, you could easily go in the tank," Smith said of Gettis. "He didn't."

Frank Gore rushed for 102 yards for San Francisco, which hasn't won a non-divisional road game since Nov. 30 at Buffalo. Carr's miserable 5 of 13 performance for 67 yards didn't help, but he may have to play in London Sunday.

"When you get put in a situation like that, you try not to think about the fact that you haven't gotten any reps," Carr said. "You just try and win the football game for your team. I just didn't make enough plays for my guys to be in a position to win. We have to find a way to do that."

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