CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers don't have very many options at quarterback right now.
So even though he wasn't very good -- again -- they were rallying around David Carr after another dismal performance, in their 20-7 loss at Tennessee.
Carr threw for just 107 yards and was sacked seven times, unable to lead the Panthers to any kind of consistent production, on a day when he was nearly their only option. Rookie Matt Moore was the only other quarterback to dress, since Vinny Testaverde wasn't even suited up for the game.
"I mean, right now, David's the starter," wide receiver Steve Smith said. "He has to believe in us and we have to believe in him. Bottom line. When you don't, when things are down, to say he can't be the guy, that he can't lead this team, I think that's a cowardly way to look at it.
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"That's not the case."
All his teammates were quick to his defense, but the truth is, if they'd have been quicker afoot protecting him, they'd have had a better chance. Carr was battered and beaten, taking a number of cheap shots beyond the sacks. One was called when Titans defensive end Antwan Odom took a dive at his knees. Another wasn't when end Kyle Vanden Bosch stuck his head in the center of Carr's ailing back.
The last one came late in the fourth quarter, when former Panther Tony Brown spiked him to the turf, bouncing his head off the grass and leaving Carr, in his own words: "A little dizzy. I tried to get up but I didn't want to fall back down."
When asked if he thought some of the Titans' shots were of the cheap variety, Carr tried to play it as diplomatically as he could.
"Smile. Smirk," he said. "How about that -- you can write 'smirk.' That's about all I have to say about that."
With the beatings he was taking, it's a wonder he could talk at all.
Right tackle Jordan Gross called it "probably our worst game, protection-wise."
"We knew if we were going to win the game we had to keep David on his feet," Gross said. "And he got hit a bunch."
With that pressure, even the chances to move the ball downfield had little chances to succeed.
Carr said he was making a conscious effort to get it to Smith, throwing some passes he ordinarily might not have. It didn't work, as the Pro Bowl wideout had three catches for 15 yards. Smith now has 13 for 104 yards from Carr in parts of five games, fewer yards than from either Jake Delhomme (271 in three games) or Vinny Testaverde (154 in two).
"The frustration is just, offensively, we're not being effective -- as a whole, everybody," Smith said. "It's not one weak link. Everybody's together.
"For one person or one position or several positions to be bad, offensively, everybody suffers."
Carr mentioned that there were still times where he wasn't "on the same page," with his receivers, even though he's spent more time on the field than any other quarterback this season.
"It was two or three times," he said of the misunderstandings. "It got better but it still wasn't good enough. It's better than two weeks ago, but when you are playing a good defense like this, you have to be on it.
"They were in good coverage. A couple of times I just put it up for a jump ball to see if we could make a play. They were ready for it. They were prepared and they knew we were going to it. I was trying to get something going, get a spark. But they know who he (Smith) is."
With all the other issues surrounding the team now, they know the inevitable quarterback issues will come up.
And because there were so many other problems, they're trying to cover Carr as best as they can, after the fact.
"No, I don't think it's fair," fullback Brad Hoover said of what's to come. "I don't think David deserves a lot of criticism. I think we as an offense deserve the criticism. We're all involved. It has nothing to do with one player. It can be turned and looked at however you want to look at it and it will. I'm sure it will, as a matter of fact.
"Offensively, we're one group. David is our quarterback right now. We've all got to play better, and we didn't play well today."