Friday, September 21, 2007

Williams, Foster recall perfect game for RBs against Falcons

Williams, Foster recall perfect game for RBs against Falcons

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — When the Carolina Panthers visit Atlanta on Sunday, chances are good the game will have little resemblance to the last meeting.

For DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams, that's too bad. Using direct snaps to Williams and a heavy dose of handoffs to Foster, the Panthers ran a team-record 52 times - and attempted just seven passes - in a 10-3 win over the Falcons last December.

It was a running back's dream.

"I just know the game went by fast," Williams recalled this week. "I think it was one of the shortest NFL games."

And one of the most bizarre. The Panthers had lost four straight and were coming off a 37-3 embarrassment to Pittsburgh where Chris Weinke, who replaced the injured Jake Delhomme, injured his throwing shoulder.

Weinke practised little during the week, and coach John Fox didn't think he could throw 40 passes against the Falcons.

"It's just like a pitcher. You don't want to pitch him 10 innings," Fox said Friday. "Maybe he can give you a couple."

So then-offensive coordinator Dan Henning put in a game plan Williams used occasionally in college: direct snaps to the running back in a formation that resembled the old single wing.

"It was exactly what we did at Memphis," Williams said. "It was something I was used to."

And it surprised the Falcons. Running only two different plays out of the formation, Williams converted seven of eight third-down chances and rushed for 82 yards on 21 carries.

Meanwhile, Foster rushed for 102 yards on 28 carries and the Panthers held the ball for nearly 42 minutes. Weinke, while not taxing his shoulder, completed four of seven passes and threw for the game's only touchdown.

"It was exciting," Foster said. "You look forward to it. We were ready."

As Foster and Williams reminisced about last year's game, they also were thinking about resurrecting the running game that failed last week against Houston.

A week after rushing for 186 yards in a win over St. Louis, the Panthers mustered 66 yards in a 34-21 loss.

"I'm not going to say the running game didn't work last week. It's just that we got behind," said Foster, who was held to 22 yards on nine carries. "I don't think they completely stopped us. We just had to get away from it. We're going to try to get back into it and try to be more consistent."

The Panthers hope to get a boost with the return of guard Jeremy Bridges, who was suspended for the first two games after his arrest on a misdemeanour assault charge. Bridges will replace rookie Ryan Kalil at right guard.

"He keeps us going on the offensive line," Williams said. "We missed his energy, let's just say that. We missed his energy in the huddle and the locker room and we're grateful to have him back."

Delhomme, who threw 41 passes against the Texans, would be grateful to get the running game back.

The good news for the Panthers: Foster has rushed for 100 or more yards three times in his last four games against Atlanta.

"It's just getting in a good groove, really," Foster said.

Williams, who was held to 31 yards on eight carries against Houston, has also stressed the need to get the running game going - even though it's doubtful he'll get any direct snaps Sunday.

"I know they're not going to let that happen this week," Williams said, laughing. "We had a great game against them last year running the ball and I'm sure they'll be gunning to stop the run this year."

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