Gardner Catches On for the Panthers
Sunday, August 14, 2005
CHARLOTTE, Aug. 13 -- When Rod Gardner played for the Washington Redskins, the 6-foot-2, 213-pound wide receiver often punched his right arm forward after gaining a first down. On the Carolina Panthers' first offensive possession against his old team Saturday night, Gardner caught a 10-yard pass from Jake Delhomme. But Gardner responded stoically while the crowd at Bank of America Stadium cheered.
Gardner must have felt there was more to come. He punctuated the drive with an aggressive, acrobatic catch for a 21-yard touchdown to open up the scoring in the Panthers' 28-10 victory.
"It was early in the game," Gardner said grinning. "I was just trying to get into a rhythm and get going. It was a little too early for it."
Gardner was dealt to the Panthers last month for a conditional sixth-round draft choice. Although Gardner is the third receiver on Carolina's depth chart, he started last night across from top receiver Steve Smith because Keary Colbert has a sore hamstring.
"It was a good feeling," said Gardner, who finished the game with two catches for 31 yards. "It was good to get a play against my old team, just show what I've got, and let them see what they miss. I'm just going out there trying to get better."
Gardner made an immediate impact after quarterback Patrick Ramsey was intercepted on Washington's first possession, giving Carolina the ball at its 33-yard line. Gardner's first catch brought the ball to the Carolina 43-yard line.
His touchdown came on third and two from the Washington 21-yard line, after Gardner darted to the end zone against cornerback Ade Jimoh. They brushed against each other as the ball went into the end zone, and Gardner pulled down the ball. The referees threw a flag, and the Redskins hoped for offensive interference. But pass interference was called on Jimoh, igniting Gardner's celebration.
Gardner requested a trade after last season, during which he posted some of the worst numbers of his career: 51 catches, 650 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Redskins, who were considering revamping their receiving corps, obliged.
Said Coach Joe Gibbs, "I think they got a heck of a deal there, and I think he'll have his best year."
Right tackle Jon Jansen played in his first NFL game since tearing his Achilles' tendon in last year's preseason opener. Jansen played for most of the first half as Washington's offensive line didn't yield any sacks despite heavy blitzing.
"It feels great," Jansen said. "It would feel a lot better if we won. I'm excited to be back."
Washington's pass protection was a concern after Ramsey was sacked four times on only 12 passing plays in last week's scrimmage against the Baltimore Ravens. The offensive line's play was sharp Saturday night despite facing Carolina's formidable defensive line. Before Jansen's injury on Aug. 9, 2004, he had not missed a football game since graduating from Clawson High, north of Detroit.
Taylor Comes Off Bench
Safety Sean Taylor remains a reserve and didn't get into the game until there were about five minutes left in the second quarter; he replaced Matt Bowen. Taylor entered with the third team but still grabbed the spotlight during a strange play following a blocked field goal attempt late in the second quarter.
With the Panthers up 14-0, John Kasay attempted a 39-yard field goal with 53 seconds left. After the kick was blocked, Taylor pounced on the ball at the Washington 24-yard line. Taylor showcased his running skills, zigzagging across the field. When Taylor got to the Washington 42-yard line, he tried to lateral to Bowen as he was brought down. Bowen caught the ball and sprinted down the left sideline. Bowen extended the wackiness by throwing a lateral to a teammate. The toss was off the mark, and Carolina's center fell on the ball, bringing a stern look from Gibbs a few feet away. After the play, six referees huddled for a lengthy discussion.
"We have an interesting situation," said one referee, before announcing the decision. The Redskins kept the ball with 22 seconds left after Taylor was penalized for an illegal forward pass. . . .
As expected, linebacker LaVar Arrington (knee), safety Tony Dixon (hamstring), wideout Taylor Jacobs (toe), defensive tackle Brandon Noble (knee) and Rogers (foot and ankle) missed Saturday night's game.