The Panthers capitalized with a field goal on another Rams turnover to begin the second quarter.
After Rams’ rookie receiver Tavon Austin coughed up the ball, Graham Gano connected from 37 yards to make the score 10-2.
On the Rams next possession, it appeared the visitors were going to narrow the deficit to one point. Bradford connected with Austin for what would’ve been a 63-yard touchdown pass, but left tackle Jake Long was flagged for tripping to nullify the play. The Rams settled for a 28-yard field goal from Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein to make it a 10-5 game.
While the Rams were within a score of the Panthers, Cam Newton and his offense suddenly awoke and found their rhythm. Newton dumped a short pass to Greg Olsen, who rumbled his way to the Rams’ 36-yard line. Later in the drive, Newton fired a bullet to a wide open Ted Ginn, who was tackled at the 1-yard line before Tolbert bruised his way into the end zone for a touchdown. The score extended the Panthers lead to 17-5.
Turnovers plagued the Rams in the first half. Bradford threw his fourth interception of the season and his second pick six.
A critical contest for both St. Louis and Carolina featured little offense and explosive defense in the first quarter.
The Rams ran a play-action fake on their first play from scrimmage, and quarterback Sam Bradford was hit as he threw the ball, which hung in the air before falling into the hands of Panthers’ defensive back Captain Munnerlyn, who ran 45 yards for the pick six.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, but Bradford was flushed from the pocket and threw the ball away, turning it over on downs.
But the Rams defense answered. Defensive end Eugene Sims stuffed Panthers’ running back Mike Tolbert in the end zone for the safety to make it a five-point deficit.