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October 19, 2010

Panthers put the ball back in Moore's hands

Matt Moore has always played his best football when seasons seemed hopeless.

Matt Moore has always played his best football when seasons seemed hopeless.

Now he gets another chance this year, as the 0-5 Carolina Panthers make their second quarterback change of the season.

Panthers coach John Fox announced through a team spokesman Monday that Moore would start this weekend against San Francisco, moving rookie Jimmy Clausen back to the bench.

"We have struggled on offense since the beginning of the season," Fox's statement read. "Sometimes it helps to step back and watch, and Matt has had a chance to do that."

Fox didn't make his normal news conference appearance, but he traditionally skips the post-bye Monday, since he always says nothing changes over the weekend. Even with the changes, he didn't take any questions on the topic until he appeared on "Panther Talk," the team's in-house show on the Carolina Panthers radio network.

There, Fox leaned back on the fourth-year quarterback's experience, but also set a low bar for what he's expecting.

"I don't think it's ever just the quarterback but it is a key position," Fox said of the change. "We do have to get our passing game at least to be average. There's a lot of reasons for that. Hopefully we can run the ball more efficiently and get better production out of the quarterback and receiving positions. We started the season with Matt Moore, we had our struggles offensively. We switched over to Jimmy, I thought he had two pretty good games and not quite as good a one as he had earlier, against Chicago.

"Right now we're looking for a W, and we haven't had one this year with either quarterback, so we're going back to Matt Moore, a little more experience. And he did get four out of five wins last year."

Moore spent the entire offseason as the Panthers starter, but was pulled after just two games. He did commit six turnovers in losses to the New York Giants and Tampa Bay, so it's not as if the decision was random.

Clausen was little better in his three-game turn. He's thrown three picks but has fumbled seven times, losing two. For the season, Clausen has a 52.2 passer rating to Moore's 33.3.

Moore said last week he didn't anticipate a change, noting that Fox said "like four words," to him since the loss to the Bears, which cost Clausen his job. But he also agreed with his coach's statement, saying he feels better about his own ability to fix things now.

"It was good, just seeing the game from a different perspective," Moore said. "I mean last week's practices were good for me personally, coming in after not taking any reps the past couple weeks and then coming in and getting some significant time. I just felt different.

"Preparing all week and going out and playing, and then sitting back watching and throwing around, you feel different. Coach Fox has a point, and there's definitely some truth to that."

Moore's been in this situation before, having been in and out of the lineup in the Panthers' oddball 2007 season. He had some sub duty behind David Carr and Vinny Testaverde, and then played the final three games (winning two). Likewise, he got the final five starts of 2009 after Jake Delhomme suffered a broken finger against the New York Jets.

Moore laughed when asked if Monday's announcement caused flashbacks.

"I guess, yeah, that's the way it's been," Moore said. "We're trying to find something that works. If this is what it takes, this is what it takes. We're hoping to find a spark and hopefully we can do that."

Moore admitted he's watched some tape of himself from last year recently, if only to buoy his own confidence after getting such a quick hook this year.

"I'll throw it on every once in a while. It's a good reminder of what you can do," he said. "It reminds me, when times are tough, it's just reminding me it can be done, you can do this, and you've made this throw, you've been in this situation, and here's the result."

Of course, the Panthers have had no results with either quarterback on the field, as they rank last in the NFL in total offense (236.0 yards per game), passing offense (136.4) and scoring (10.4 points per game).

Moore will also probably be without wide receiver Steve Smith, who suffered a high ankle sprain at New Orleans two weeks ago. That leaves the new-old quarterback with a cast of rookies - David Gettis, Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards, along with Devin Thomas and David Clowney - who weren't even on the roster when he had the starting job.

"Just execution, man," Moore replied when asked what else needed to change. "Keep it simple, and execute our offense, which is running the ball. I've been saying this my whole career here. When the passes are there, we need to make them, and catch them. A big thing for us, and something I'm going to try to stress, is game management.

"Just as much as you can from a quarterback's perspective, getting as many yards as you can on first and second down and staying in third-and-short and third-and-reasonable. We've been in third-and-long way too much this year. That's something to keep in mind. I think any quarterback needs to keep that in mind. This team, we just need to emphasize things like that, it'll be beneficial for us."

Safety Charles Godfrey said he was "excited" for this week's game against San Francisco to see if the change sparks the offense, and running back DeAngelo Williams emphasized the need for improvement.

"We've got to win games, no matter who you put in at quarterback," Williams said. "I for one, and everybody in the National Football League, know you can't throw the football if your quarterback is on his back. So we definitely have to protect him.

"Whoever's back there, we just have to step up and play football. That's what it all boils down to. And I think we're going to do that this weekend, and for the rest of the weeks to come." STAFF WRITER JOE PERSON CONTRIBITED.

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