CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers had plenty of Steve Smith on Sunday.
They just didn't have enough of anything or anyone else.
Smith was phenomenal in the Panthers 34-21 loss, catching all three touchdowns and accounting for nearly half their passing game -- 153 of the 307 yards. So while he remains on pace for his personal goal of 2,000 receiving yards (his 271 through two games is on pace for 2,168), it was hard for him to find consolation in the way they lost.
"When you look at it, we lost," Smith said flatly. "Offensively, we did not do a good job. It just wears down our defense, which makes them look bad. We just did not help them out at any facet of the game after the 14 points."
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Getting toward that early lead, it appeared Smith was able to do as he pleased, scoring in spectacular fashion.
On the Panthers first possession, he reached around the head of Houston cornerback DeMarcus Faggins, tipping the ball to himself and catching it as Faggins fell.
"That was just pure luck and just staying with the ball," Smith said. "That wasn't anything I planned or anything like that. I can't take credit for that."
The second was more standard, as he simply slid under an attempted tackle by Faggins.
The third, nearly everyone had a hand in.
Smith made no less than five Texans miss on his last one, stiff-arming and juking early, then sprinting past the rest of them. He simply kept running, kept churning his legs, and 74 yards later, he scored with no one nearby.
"We play this game for a reason," Smith said when asked about the futile attempt to get the team back in late in the fourth quarter. "Money is not the biggest thing that drives me playing the game. I love playing this game. So when I get an opportunity, if its first quarter or fourth quarter, you make the best of it.
"I try to play (hard) every play, and I'll continue doing that until I'm done playing."
The game was so far gone by that point it served only as a tease for what might have been. Houston had answered his first two scores with 31 unanswered points before his highlight reel special. In fact, it almost added to their frustration, knowing they had wasted something special.
"You see the way he plays," quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "He doesn't give up, he fights. That's why he's special. That's why I love him. He's a fighter. Hopefully the other guys on the team see that he doesn't quit.
"I threw interceptions today (it was actually just one) trying to force it to him, but it makes it worth it most of the time. He's a special player. I always appreciate the effort he gives on the practice field. I love having him around. We need to get some of the young guys to see what he gives and the emotion that he plays with, because that can do wonders on the field."
Anything might help, because the didn't get much else out of the passing game.
Between the drops, they got six receptions for 75 yards from Drew Carter and Keary Colbert. Rookie Dwayne Jarrett wasn't active again, and returner Ryne Robinson didn't take a snap on offense.
The scene was reminiscent of 2005, when they were throwing it to Smith all the time for lack of any other options, and folks still couldn't stop it.
That year, he accounted for 44.8 percent of the team's yards (1,563-of-3,485) and 48.0 percent of the touchdowns (12-of-25).
This year, it's 53.3 percent of the yards (271-of-508) and 66.7 percent of the touchdowns (4-of-6).
It's a familiar problems, but pressed on what's going wrong, Smith shied away from answers.
"Offensively, we're just too up and down," Smith said. "Too inconsistent. The reason why? I can't tell you why. I could speculate, but there's no need to do that. Just too inconsistent."