Jimmy Clausen had a season-high QB rating of 107.6 on Sunday. (Photo by John Clark)
CHARLOTTE – Jimmy Clausen became the eighth Carolina Panthers’ quarterback in the franchise’s 16-year history to get a victory in Sunday’s 19-12 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
So what did he do to celebrate? And, better yet, what does he get as a reward?
Well, after taking a snap for the final kneel down of the victory, Clausen casually flipped the football to game referee Tony Corrente.
And his reward?
“It’s going to be a quick turnaround for sure,” Clausen said of preparing for Thursday’s NFL TV network game at Pittsburgh. “I’ll probably watch some tape tonight on the Steelers to get ready for the game.”
Such is the life of a NFL quarterback, particularly one who hopes he can convince current and future coaches that he deserves the chance to be the Panthers’ “quarterback of the future.”
Current coach John Fox, a lame duck coach who almost certainly was coaching in his final home game with the team, was happy for his rookie quarterback.
“He’s getting better,” Fox said of Clausen. “He’s young, he’s smart and he’s got ability like all young players, whether you talk about (receivers) David Gettis, Brandon LaFell, (running back) Mike Goodson. I know they aren’t all rookies, but they will just get better and better.
“I thought Jimmy was better this week than he was last week and he’ll need to get better next week. But he works at it.”
Clausen actually was career-best on Sunday – not just in improving his career record as a starter to 1-7.
The rookie second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame improved his previous best quarterback rating by 17 points. He completed 13 of 19 throws for 109 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for a 107.6 rating.
And the scoring strike to tight end Jeff King in the second quarter snapped a streak of 202 passes without a touchdown that dated to his first career scoring pass.
“It feels great,” Clausen said. “I couldn’t be more happy for the coaching staff and all of these players. It’s been a real tough season for everybody.”
Fox stood up for his quarterback, who has endured a significant amount of criticism this year.
“You can’t pin it all on one guy,” Fox said of Clausen’s play as a starter. “This is the ultimate team game. I think we’ve had our struggles this year. We’ve lost some close games. Unfortunately, we’ve only won twice. I know this is Jimmy’s first win but it’s not like the others were all his losses by himself. I know he’s got to be excited. I know I was for him.”
The contest started with long drives for field goals – and a 6-0 lead – entering the second quarter. But the 16-yard TD throw to King gave Carolina a 13-0 lead. And a short drive for another field goal after Arizona failed to execute an onsides kick to open the second half proved to be all Carolina would need to win.
Clausen said teammate Steve Smith talked at halftime about the need to start the second half strong.
“Steve said it best: ‘We’ve been here before. We just need to go out and finish,’” Clausen said of Smith’s talk, which was in reference to a 31-14 loss in Seattle two weeks earlier – or after the Panthers led 14-0 in the first half. “I think we did a great job in all three phases of just going out and finishing in the second half.”
Good enough, at least, for a career first victory for the young quarterback.
OFF THE SNIDE:
Carolina Panthers quarterback records since the franchise started in 1995:
Quarterback Starts Record
Jake Delhomme 90 53-37
Steve Beuerlein 51 23-28
Kerry Collins 42 22-20
Chris Weinke 19 2-17
Rodney Peete 15 8-7
Matt Moore 13 7-6
Jimmy Clausen 8 1-7
Vinny Testaverde 6 2-4
David Carr 4 1-3
Frank Reich 3 0-3
Matt Lytle 1 0-1
Randy Fasani 1 0-1
Brian St. Pierre 1 0-1