Jonathan Stewart races for a 67-yard touchdown run Sunday. (AP Photo)
CHARLOTTE – Jonathan Stewart ran for 125 yards on Sunday helping the Carolina Panthers become the first team in NFL history to finish with two 1,100-yard rushers.
Stewart needed 92 yards coming into the game for Double Trouble to break the record and got 67 of those on the second play from scrimmage when he raced around the right side for a touchdown helping lead the Panthers to a 23-10 win over the New Orleans. He finished season with 1,133 yards, giving him the overall team rushing title. DeAngelo Williams (1,117 yards) did not play the last 11 quarters of the season because of an ankle injury.
“It’s real special,” Stewart said. “The whole Double Trouble thing we came up with and share together, for us both reach a goal like that says a lot about our team. Our offensive line was real determined to get that because it gave them that extra push. It’s something we all share together and that’s a great feeling to have.”
Williams missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Stewart left the game in the second half after re-injuring his Achilles, but the injury is not serious and he appeared fine after the game.
MOOSE’S RETURN: Although he’ll be 37 next year, Muhsin Muhammad showed that he can still shine with seven catches for 85 yards in what could be his final game with the Panthers. Muhammad moved up to the No. 1 receiver with Steve Smith on the sidelines with a broken arm.
“Well, I’m not done playing,” Muhammad said. “I would love to be a Panther next year, for all of the obvious reasons. We just have to wait and see what happens.”
HOOVER WANTS TO PLAY: Fullback Brad Hoover suffered through an injury-plagued 10th NFL season, but said he’s not ready to call it quits either. Hoover is under contract next season and wants to return.
“I still think I’ve got something left,” Hoover said. “I think I’ve played well when I’ve been in there. We’ll wait and see. I think it’s rash even if I was thinking about retirement to make a statement like that, but I have no inclination of trying to do that. I really want to return and play.”
THE WILDCAT-AMOUNT: The Panthers used a little trickery to fool the Saints on Sunday.
Well, not really.
But they did run Hoover out of the Wildcat formation, or the “Catamount Formation” as it’s now been dubbed. Hoover lined up at quarterback on one play took the snap and raced into the line for a 2-yard gain.
“I was surprised as anybody,” said Hoover.
MOORE GOOD THINGS: Matt Moore closed the season by throwing seven touchdown passes and no interceptions in his final three games with the Panthers.
Moore won four of his five starts with the team this year, improving his overall record as a starter to 6-2.
“He’s made the personnel decisions a lot more difficult right now playing as well as he has and protecting the football,” Muhammad said. "I think he’s done everything they have asked him to do and I think that’s all you can ask of him as a player.”
CHILLY IN CHARLOTTE: With a game-time temperature of 30 degrees, Sunday marked the coldest home game in franchise history and the fourth-coldest ever.
The previous coldest at home was 34 degrees twice before – here against the St. Louis Rams in 2000 and against San Francisco at Clemson University in 1995. The coldest road game in franchise history was 3 degrees in the 1996 NFC Championship game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc.
WHAT’S UP WITH PEP: Not surprisingly, Julius Peppers made an early exit from the locker room and did not speak to reporters about his future.
But teammate Damione Lewis thinks Peppers wants to return to Carolina next year.
“I think he does,” Lewis said. “I would hope so. He was born and bread here and he’s been with this team his whole NFL career. They have shown a lot of favoritism to him and things got rough early in the season, but it’s part of the job. I think his heart is in Carolina and I hope he does stay. The only thing you know about Julius is you never know what he’s thinking.”
Linebacker Jon Beason said: “I think it’s a matter of a contract now. He’s not going to leave here to go somewhere where things will be the same. If he’s going to leave he’s going to leave for the mountain top in terms of a big market or maybe a Super Bowl contender every year. But I think he loves the guys on this team and we love him and we want to keep him here.”
JARRETT GETS SCORE: In what could be his final game as a Panther, Dwayne Jarrett hauled in a diving 30-yard touchdown catch from Matt Moore to give the Panthers a 14-3 lead in the second quarter.
For Jarrett, a second-round pick in 2007, it was his first touchdown catch as a Panther after hauling in 41 during his career at Southern Cal.
“It felt like a monkey off my back and it was a heavy one,” Jarrett said.
MOORE GETS THE START: Charlotte native Kenneth Moore got his first NFL start in place of Steve Smith, who went on injured reserve last week. He didn't make a catch.
HOOVER WINS AWARD: Hoover was selected as the inaugural winner of the Tom Berry Good Guy Award, given to the player who is most cooperative with the Panthers media during the course of the season. The award is named for Berry, a long-time columnist and Panthers beat writer for the High Point Enterprise who passed away in August.
“Brad Hoover is the absolute perfect selection for this award,” said Pat Yasinskas, the NFC South representative for the PFWA. “First off, Brad symbolizes everything Tom Barry stood for. He’s always been courteous and polite with the media and a true gentleman. Plus, Brad and Tom had a special connection that makes this selection even more meaningful on many levels.”
Hoover grew up in Thomasville, which is part of the Enterprise’s coverage area.
PANTHERS FREE AGENTS: Here’s an early look at the players who’ll be unrestricted free agent after the season if the NFL and the Players Union can’t come up with a new collective bargaining agreement: Julius Peppers, Tyler Brayton, Muhsin Muhammad, Keydrick Vincent, Hollis Thomas, Josh McCown, A.J. Feeley and Dante Wesley.
2010 SCHEDULE: With the completion of the regular season, we now know who the Panthers will play next season.
Home games include Arizona, St. Louis, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Chicago.
Away games include San Francisco, Seattle, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and, for a third straight year, the New York Giants.
The Panthers will also play home and away games against division foes Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay. The official schedule will be announced later this year.