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Panthers sack Bulger seven times, blank Rams

Nov 19, 2006 - 9:19 PM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- The Carolina Panthers made sure the St. Louis Rams felt the absence of Orlando Pace.

Defensive end Mike Rucker had two of the Panthers' seven sacks in a smothering 15-0 victory over the reeling Rams.

Rookie DeAngelo Williams rushed for a season-high 114 yards and Steve Smith caught a TD pass for the Panthers (6-4), who tied New Orleans for first place in the NFC South.

Defensively, the Panthers took advantage of a Rams offensive line missing Pace, a seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle who is out for the remainder of the season due to a triceps injury.

Rucker feasted on Pace's replacement Adam Goldberg, making life miserable for Marc Bulger, who completed just 19-of-34 passes for 142 yards with an interception.

One of Rucker's sacks resulted in a fourth-quarter safety.

Former Ram defensive tackle Damione Lewis and linebacker Chris Draft added 1 1/2 sacks apiece for the Panthers, who tied a team record for sacks.

"We played well, played really well," Draft said. "The d-line did great. Everyone contributed. Last week we did well, today we did better. We expect to keep building on it."

St. Louis (4-6), which managed just 111 yards and eight first downs, lost its fifth straight game and was shut out for the first time since the 1998 season.

"I don't think I've ever been shut out here or with any other team," Bulger said. "You have to give them credit but at the same time, I know that we're good enough to score at least once. We were that bad today."

"I'm not saying it was because of Orlando (Pace)," said Rams running back Steven Jackson, who was limited to 27 rushing yards on seven carries. "What happened out there was ugly. I don't know if Orlando could have changed it. Everyone was running on all cylinders and for us to come in and put up a dismal performance is humbling. Not only the zero, but the total yardage period."

The Panthers registered their third shutout in team history.

"(The defense) It's our best performance to date, no question," Panthers coach John Fox said. "I think our guys knew they were going up against a stiff challenge. I thought they rose to the occasion."

Williams enjoyed his best game as pro after taking over for DeShaun Foster, who suffered an elbow injury in the first half.

Led by Williams, the Panthers, who ranked 28th in the league in rushing, had a team-record 244 yards on the ground. It was the seventh 100-yard rusher the Rams allowed this season.

"We were committed to the run this week," Williams said. "The offensive line was committed to the run this week, and they said they were going to open up big holes. They did a tremendous job opening those holes for us today. Any back in the country would have rushed for 100 yards. They were doing that good of a job for us today."

"We ran the ball more effectively today," Fox said. "DeAngelo (Williams) did a good job. He's got pretty good bursts in the perimeter when things are clogging up. We've been up and down to put it mildly. It's a tribute to those guys in the locker room who stuck to it.

Jake Delhomme also made a big play in the passing game, finding Smith down the left sideline for a 62-yard touchdown pass with 1:31 left in the first half to give the Panthers 10-0 lead.

"We're still a work in progress but we did some good things running the ball," Delhomme said. "I wish we could have put some more points on the board, but it was a big win. We needed it."

Delhomme completed 13-of-25 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown with an interception. Smith had four receptions for 90 yards.

Bulger never was able to get anything going despite the Panthers being without starting cornerback Ken Lucas (thigh).

"If you want to be successful offensively, you're got to execute," Rams first-year coach Scott Linehan said. "You've got to stay on the field on third down, and you've got to be able to catch the ball if you're going to move the chains and put yourself in a position to score. We didn't do any of that today."

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