For the second straight season, running back Arian Foster tallied more than 1,000 rushing yards and 600-plus receiving yards. On the day, he led the Texans with 109 yards on 16 carries and caught five passes for a team-high 58 yards. Foster's only the fifth player in NFL history to achieve the milestone, but Foster was focused more on the loss.
"We didn't come out with a lot of energy," Foster said. "I take a lot of blame with that because when you turn the ball over so early like that, it kind of deflates the energy."
Foster coughed up the ball on the second play from scrimmage, and the Panthers recovered at the Houston 26-yard line. He promised, however, that he won't fumble again in 2011.
Linebackers coach Reggie Herring called the plays on defense in lieu of coordinator Wade Phillips, who is on medical leave. Carolina amassed 166 rushing yards on 34 carries, and converted nine of their 14 third down chances. The defense, like the rest of the team, struggled against Carolina but the players didn't attribute their lackluster performance to Herring.
"It was all the same calls we would've had in very similar situations," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "I think he did a great job. You look at the third quarter and most of the fourth quarter, the way we just turned it around, finally woke up and played defense. That was the defense I know here."
Outside lineback Connor Barwin, who finished with three tackles and a sack, agreed.
"It's the same defense, same calls," Barwin said. "The calls felt like it was Wade calling the game. Reggie is our coach and I really felt like we disappointed him by not coming out and playing our best."
The Texans lost a fumble and tossed a pair of interceptions, and the Panthers were able to score touchdowns after the first two turnovers, and ran the game clock out following the third. Quarterback T.J. Yates was disappointed in the gaffes, and said they were incredibly costly.
"That's something we definitely can't have on offense," Yates said. "We were moving the ball well. Those turnovers are things that kill drives and they're definitely putting our defense in bad positions and giving the other team points."
Head coach Gary Kubiak singled out the turnovers as well, citing the Panthers' abililty to convert the mistakes into points as a key to victory.
"We turned the ball over in the red zone, we turned the ball over on our plus side of the field and it turned into a touchdown," Kubiak said. "Everything we did wrong with the ball turned into big points for them."
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was able to keep drives alive with his arm and his feet, completing 13 of 23 attempts for 149 yards and a pair of scores, and rushing seven times for 55 yards. His quarterback rating was 105.2, and he impressed Kubiak a great deal.
"First off, they do a lot of things, so that tells you how sharp he is that he can handle all that stuff," Kubiak said. "He can beat you with his arm; he can beat you with his legs."
Free safety Danieal Manning, who finished with four tackles, said Newton was the same Sunday as he's been all season long.
"He's capable of doing the things he's done all year," Manning said. "I don't think he has reached his full potential right now. He's throwing the ball some and running the ball a ton."