for this game

Smith, Panthers overcome Cardinals

Oct 26, 2008 - 10:11 PM By Brian Joura PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Steve Smith scored two touchdowns, including a controversial 65-yard score, to lead the Carolina Panthers to a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme threw for 248 yards and two scores, including the go-ahead scoring pass to Smith, who broke a tackle and tiptoed down the sideline for a touchdown and a 24-23 lead with two seconds left in the third quarter.

Replays seemed to show Smith stepping out of bounds but the call was upheld after a challenge, keeping Carolina perfect at home in five games.

"No, you keep running, keep playing it out," said Smith when asked if he stepped out of bounds. "I knew I was close to the sideline, that's why I swung one leg around, which is the leg obviously that was close to out of bounds."

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt indicated he was ready to challenge even before any of his coaches in the booth saw a replay.

"It looked to me from where I saw it, but our DB coach Teryl Austin was standing right there and he immediately said he stepped out of bounds," Whisenhunt said. "He was standing right there looking at it. But once again, they looked at it. I guess obviously they didn't see anything to overturn it. I don't know."

Arizona (4-3) was driving for a go-ahead score when Carolina came up with an interception on its own 5-yard line. Linebacker Jon Beason caught the tipped ball and returned it 44 yards, setting up a 50-yard field goal by John Kasay for the game's final points.

"We had tight coverage but I don't know what happened," said Beason of his interception. "The ball got tipped; I saw it and I made a play on it and a decent return. We were just waiting on it. Those two turnovers were huge for us today."

Smith's performance overshadowed a a triumphant return to the field by Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught his second touchdown pass of the game to give Arizona a 23-17 lead with just under a minute to play in the third quarter.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 17-3 lead behind touchdowns by Boldin and Tim Hightower.

Boldin, who returned to action after missing three weeks with a fractured sinus, caught an 8-yard pass on Arizona's second play from scrimmage. He also ran a reverse for 30 yards on the drive, which set up a 21-yard field goal by Neil Rackers.

"I just try to work as hard as possible after the injury trying to get back where I left off before the injury," Boldin said. "It was a tough performance today for us as a team. This is a game that we should have won, could have won. Offensively, I think we hurt ourselves with the two turnovers."

Linebacker Karlos Dansby set up Arizona's second score when he sacked Delhomme, stripped the ball and came up with the fumble on the Panthers 5-yard line.

On the next play, Boldin caught a 5-yard touchdown pass a drag route from Kurt Warner, who finished 35-of-49 for 381 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Hightower's touchdown went for 2 yards, but the rookie rushed for about 30 yards on the play, twice reversing field twice before cracking the end zone.

The Panthers began their comeback by getting their running game untracked. After being held to two yards rushing in the first quarter, tailback DeAngelo Williams began to find running room. The Panthers ran several direct snaps to Williams, who scored on a 15-yard run midway through the third quarter to cut the deficit to 17-10.

"We've done it all season, said Panthers coach John Fox of the direct snaps. "We did it two years ago for the majority of the Falcon game there, so it's not new. People know we have it. We've been doing it for some time. It's just a changeup."

Carolina tied the game after Thomas Davis recovered a fumble deep by Edgerrin James deep in Arizona territory.

"I never really got a chance to grab it," James said. "As soon as I got it I was getting ready to get hit and I tried to spin out but you've still gotta hold the ball. As soon as I got it they were right there. I never got a chance to put the ball away, but you've still gotta hold onto that ball no matter what."

Delhomme found Smith on an 18-yard touchdown pass on the next play to forge a 17-17 tie.

After gaining 33 yards on the ground in the first quarter, Arizona found little success in its running game for the remainder of the contest. The Cardinals ended up with 51 passing attempts compared to just 14 rushes.

"Well, we had 400 yards of offense," Whisenhunt said. "We scored 23 points against the number-three defense in the league. I'll take that any week. Whether we've got to throw it or whether we can run it. Whatever we have got to do, if we're operating the way we operated today, we're going to win football games, and that's what this is all about."

Warner posted the 44th 300-yard passing game of his career and Larry Fitzgerald went over 100 yards receiving for the 17th time in his career for the Cardinals.

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