Originally created 12/31/01

Cardinals 30, Panthers 7



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers are so bad, they made the Arizona Cardinals look like a very good team.

Jake Plummer threw two touchdown passes to David Boston, including a 61-yarder, and new kicker Cedric Oglesby made three field goals to lead Arizona to its biggest victory margin this season by far, 30-7 over Carolina on Sunday.

The Panthers, who haven't won since Week 1, tied an NFL record by losing their 14th straight game. They can set the mark if they lose next week to the New England Patriots.

Arizona, which won just three games last year, improved to 7-8 and could finish the year at .500 for the first time since 1998, if they win against Washington next week.

Before Sunday, though, the Cardinals' biggest victory this season had been by eight points - 24-16 over the Chiefs on Oct. 21.

Boston, who leads the league in yards receiving, had seven catches for 127 yards, but otherwise Arizona did not dominate.

Instead, the Cardinals capitalized on continuous Carolina miscues and all-around bad football.

Arizona returned a fumble for a touchdown, used an interception to set up another TD, benefitted from two personal fouls to set up a field goal, and scored 17 points in a 5:14 span at the start of the second quarter.

Things turned against Carolina early, when Richard Huntley fumbled on the second play from scrimmage. Arizona's Ronald McKinnon scooped up the ball and went untouched 25 yards into the end zone for a 7-0 Cardinals lead 56 seconds into the game.

John Kasay missed a pair of first-quarter field goals for Carolina that hurt, but the game really got away from the Panthers in the second quarter.

Oglesby - signed to replace rookie Bill Gramatica, who tore knee ligaments while jumping for joy after making a field goal two weeks ago - opened the period with a 37-yard field goal.

The Panthers had to punt after four plays, and Plummer pounced with the 61-yard TD toss to Boston for a 17-0 Arizona lead.

David Barrett intercepted Chris Weinke two plays later and returned it to the Carolina 12. Plummer found Boston in the end zone four plays later on a 5-yard TD play for a 24-0 lead.

Things got even worse for the Panthers, despite Weinke's 7-yard touchdown pass to Donald Hayes that made it 24-7 with 2:38 to play in the half.

Safety Jarrod Cooper - fined $5,000 by the NFL for fighting in a game in October - was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for ripping his helmet off and throwing it to the sidelines after his hit on the ensuing kick return.

The Panthers were hit for another 15 yards two plays later when Mike Rucker was called for roughing the passer on a hit that came well after Plummer had completed a 10-yard pass to Tywan Mitchell.

The penalties gave the Cardinals 30 free yards on the drive, which ended with Oglesby's 18-yard field goal as the first half expired, putting Arizona up 27-7.