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Cardinals Crushed by Panthers, 27-7

From Associated Press

Having already broken the record for victories by an expansion team, the Carolina Panthers are ready to double it.

Kerry Collins threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns Sunday and the Panthers held Arizona to its lowest yardage total in 40 years in a 27-7 victory over the Cardinals.

In winning for the fifth time in six games, Carolina (5-6) continued to distance itself from the previous record for victories by a first-year NFL team. The 1961 Vikings won three games, a mark that was matched by the ’66 Falcons and ’67 Saints.

“We’re just thinking about knocking them down one at a time, but yes, I don’t think making the playoffs would be impossible,” said Carolina defensive end Mike Fox.

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Arizona (3-8) lost its third game in a row and set several marks for futility in the process. The Cardinals finished with 96 yards, their lowest output since gaining 86 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 26, 1955. They had only seven first downs, their least since 1991.

“That’s incredible, numbers like that,” Carolina linebacker Sam Mills said. “I thought we’d play well today, but at times out there, we played really well. And I mean really well. Things were just happening for us. There was a lot of pressure being applied out there.”

The Cardinals, who came in with the worst rushing defense in the NFL, proved they were also vulnerable to the passing of a rookie quarterback. Collins had his most efficient day in eight starts, completing 15 of 23 passes without an interception.

Despite the Panthers’ surge, which includes a victory over defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco, Carolina Coach Dom Capers downplayed talk about what people can expect of his team over the last five weeks of the season.

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“There’s a fine line in this business--it’s like walking a tightrope,” he said. “As you go along you have to focus on what’s right in front of you, because if you start looking around or you look too far down the road, you have a tendency to get dizzy. And that’s when you fall off that rope.”

The net result was that while the Panthers need to win one of their final five games to double the previous record for expansion victories, the Cardinals have been doomed to their 11th consecutive season without a winning mark.

“I had high expectations for this team,” Arizona Coach Buddy Ryan said. “And you know, we haven’t lived up to them.”

Thanks to linebacker Seth Joyner and cornerback Aeneas Williams, the Cardinals only trailed 14-7 after a first half in which their offense generated one first down and 45 yards.

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