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Panthers top Browns, win third straight

Oct 8, 2006 - 8:19 PM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Jake Delhomme has someone other than Steve Smith to throw the ball to this season.

Delhomme threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson as the Carolina Panthers frustrated Charlie Frye en route to a 20-12 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

Last season, Delhomme helped lead the Panthers to the NFC championship by relying heavily on Smith in the passing game. Smith led the league in catches (103), receiving touchdowns (15) and receiving yards (1,563).

The Panthers gave Delhomme some help opposite Smith by signing Johnson, an 11-year veteran and the first overall pick in 1996.

"I think we are still in a work in progress," said Delhomme, who completed 20-of-29 passes for 170 yards without a turnover.

Delhomme hooked up with Johnson down the right side with 4:13 left in the first half, giving the Panthers (3-2) a 14-3 lead. Johnson finished with five catches for 67 yards.

"We did what we were supposed to do, which is win every football game," Johnson said. "We left some (passes) out there that we thought we should have caught. As long as we win the football game, that's all that matters."

DeShaun Foster rushed for 106 yards on 24 carries and John Kasay kicked a pair of field goals for the Panthers, who have won three straight following an 0-2 start.

"There is always room for improvement," Panthers coach John Fox said. "We went into this game saying we were going to run the football and be steady about it."

Frye endured a frustrating afternoon against the aggressive defense of the Panthers. He completed 26-of-43 passes for 173 yards and two interceptions - one of which was returned for a touchdown - and also lost a fumble.

Phil Dawson kicked four field goals for the Browns (1-4), who failed to build on last week's win at Oakland.

"It was a fight all the way through," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "We took it down to the wire."

Frye's first miscue late in the first quarter. His pass deflected off the hands of wide receiver Dennis Northcutt and into the waiting arms of cornerback Richard Marshall, who returned it 30 yards for a score.

"That is a great defensive line," Frye said. "They were getting pressure with those four guys."

Delhomme engineered a six-play, 73-yard drive in the second quarter, capping it with his toss to Johnson, who also had an 18-yard reception on the march.

The Panthers extended the lead with an eight-play, 62-yard drive on their opening possession of the third quarter. Delhomme highlighted the march with a 22-yard completion to Johnson to the Cleveland 31.

After the drive stalled, Kasay kicked a 24-yard field goal, giving the Panthers a 17-3 advantage.

Joshua Cribbs returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards, setting up Dawson's 47-yard field goal that pulled the Browns within 17-6.

"I think we did come out scoring touchdowns," said Browns right end Kellen Winslow II, who had eight catches for 55 yards. "We start late. It takes us a while to get going."

The Browns reached the Panthers 6 early in the fourth quarter but had to settle for Dawson's 22-yard field goal.

Delhomme had a hand in helping the Panthers extend the lead with a 20-yard completion to Smith to the 1 with under six minutes remaining. However, the Panthers had to settle for Kasay's 19-yard field goal and a 20-9 lead with 4:03 left.

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