CHARLOTTE -- The Panthers know all too well what the San Francisco 49ers are going through, as they've had to turn to an elderly quarterback as well.
Of course, San Francisco's Trent Dilfer's a mere child at 35, nothing compared to the Panthers' Vinny Testaverde (44).
But as with the Panthers, there's a sense of stability he brings to the huddle that was missing earlier this season. Dilfer's coming off his best game of the year, a 256-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception outing in last week's overtime win over Arizona.
He's played in five games this year for the 49ers, starting four in relief of injured former No. 1-overall pick Alex Smith.
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"Trent has continued to get better each time he has played," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "He hadn't played in about a year and a half when he played a game earlier this season after Alex was injured in the Seattle game.
"I think he gives us a spark, to be honest with you, and he has tremendous experience. He has his demons, like all quarterbacks, on certain things, but he is a real good competitor. He has been a real plus to an offense that has been struggling for most of the season."
Dilfer has thrown seven picks this year (against five touchdowns), but his biggest problem has been staying upright. He's been sacked 20 times this year, more than once every nine pass attempts.
That should be welcome news to a Panthers team that still ranks 31st in the league in sacks per pass play, with just 10 on the season.
• TRGOVAC'S PHONE NOT RINGING: Although his name was mentioned early in the first round of coaching rumors at Michigan, Panthers defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac said he hasn't been contacted by anyone associated with the process of replacing the retired Lloyd Carr.
The conventional wisdom is that the job belongs to LSU's Les Miles if he wants it, but Trgovac's name popped up on a few media lists.
"No, I haven't talked to anybody up there ... just my friends," Trgovac said Friday. "I've been here so late every night, even if they did call, I don't know if I'd be around to answer my phone. It's been some late nights trying to get this ship right."
The 48-year-old Trgovac played nose guard for the Wolverines under Bo Schembechler, earning All-Big Ten honors twice and playing in three Rose Bowls.
• EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers' injury report was fairly straightforward, with wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett listed as doubtful because of the knee injury that's sidelined him all week, and the others all listed all probable: Testaverde (back), Mike Rucker (illness) and Chris Gamble (thumb).