The Panthers have been thrilled with the play of cornerback Chris Gamble, who is enjoying a bounce-back season under coach Ron Rivera.
Gamble was benched late last season by coach John Fox after he failed to register an interception and struggled in coverage.
"Chris has had just an outstanding season, and I don't think he's getting the credit he deserves because he does it quietly and doesn't make a lot out of it," Rivera said. "I thought the plays he has made, coming up and making some big tackles, have been outstanding for us. We've asked him to do some things differently in other games where you ask him to cover the number one receiver, switch sides, and he's done that. I really can't talk enough about what he's done and what he's meant for us defensively as far as being a steady, steady influence and a steady performer."
The Panthers wanted to run the ball against the Colts coming into Sunday's game, and they did.
They piled up 201 yards on the ground.
"Earlier in the week, coach (Ron Rivera) challenged everybody to do their jobs," quarterback Cam Newton said. "In practice, you see our running backs coach, no matter what type of run, have those guys finish. If the ball's at our 40-yard line, those guys have to run to the opposite touchdown, because you never know when you're going to have that opportunity for a big run. Seeing those guys run 70 yards in practice, then come back and run the next play, it shows that those guys are still trying to get better. It showed off today."
Added guard Geoff Hangartner: "We love running the ball. We've got two great backs, and our tight ends do a great job blocking. Everybody knows them as receiving threats, but (Jeremy Shockey) and (Greg Olsen) even Richie Brockel and Ben Hartsock, those guys do a great job blocking for us at the tight end spot, so we feel really confident running."
So what was the difference last week?
"I think it was better execution on our part, and I felt like we ran it more," Hangartner said. "Those runs that are 3-yard runs in the first quarter or the first half, keep running it on them and you can wear them down and they'll turn into 6- and 8-yard runs."
Receiver Steve Smith called Sunday's win "a big one" for the team's confidence, even though it came against 0-11 Indianapolis.
"Unfortunately the Colts, what they are going through, teams go through it," Smith said. "You can't go out there with feelings, you have to go out there and do your job. Pretty much say you're expected or you're supposed to beat them, and they're not this, they're not that. Every team goes through that, and unfortunately they are going through it. To be honest, (I) don't really care, that's their problem."
This week, the Panthers face Tampa Bay, losers of five straight.
RB DeAngelo Williams ran for two scores Sunday, doubling his season output. Williams got a rare red-zone carry and made the most of it, producing a 2-yard touchdown.
LB Dan Connor was praised by defensive coordinator Sean McDermott for having a great game Sunday. "He's finally getting it," McDermott said.
WR Darvin Adams was elevated to the 53-man roster last week to replace FB Jerome Felton. Adams could be a four-phase special teams player for the Panthers.
CB Chris Gamble had a big fourth-quarter interception of Curtis Painter, his third of the season.
FB Richie Brockel is the only fullback on the Panthers roster.
REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Cam Newton was an efficient 20 of 27 for 208 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions against the Colts. It was good, but could have been better. The same goes for the blocking. The Panthers allowed three sacks for 32 yards. Teams seem to be figuring out Steve Smith, who was limited to 68 yards on three catches.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Panthers ran for a season-high 201 yards on 35 carries. Jonathan Stewart was effective, racking up 70 yards on 10 carries, but it was DeAngelo Williams who scored twice and finished with 69 yards on 15 carries. Cam Newton ran for his 10th touchdown of the season and finished with 53 yards on nine carries. Cleary it was Carolina's best performance of the season. Granted, it came against the Colts.
PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Panthers allowed a 56-yard touchdown late in the game to Reggie Wayne on some horrible tackling but then hunkered down and intercepted Curtis Painter twice in the fourth quarter, both of those coming in the end zone. Carolina had two sacks and limited Painter to 226 yards.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus -- The Panthers held the Colts to 105 yards rushing on 23 carries and one score on the ground. Too often Carolina is getting beat at the line of scrimmage and seem to have troubles against bigger blocking fullbacks.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Kealoha Pilares' 81-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter was huge, as it extended Carolina's lead to eight. The only miscue for Carolina was allowing a 50-yard field goal to get blocked. That's the third time this season Olindo Mare has had a field goal blocked, which means the blocking hasn't been good up front.
COACHING: B -- The Panthers made some nice adjustments on offense that helped break up a 10-10 tie at the half.