ARLINGTON, Tex. — You can’t say the Carolina Panthers didn’t bring their best game Monday night.
The problem was, the one they were best at was the blame game.
The Panthers fell 21-7 to Dallas Monday at Cowboys Stadium, after allowing 212 rushing yards, and Jake Delhomme’s fourth-quarter interception which was returned for a touchdown by Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman.
“You can blame me,” Panthers coach John Fox said.
“This one falls completely on me,” wide receiver Steve Smith said.
“I knew he was going to say that,” Delhomme added. “But I was ultimately the one with the ball in his hands last.”
This loss had plenty of fathers, beginning with a defense which was gashed by the Cowboys’ league-best running game. Granted, they played without Marion Barber, and then were without Felix Jones for most of the second half. That left Tashard Choice to hack at them late, and keep the Panthers defense on the field far longer than it needed to be.
Only three teams since 1990 have overcome 0-3 starts to make the playoffs — the 1992 San Diego Chargers, the 1995 Detroit Lions and the 1998 Buffalo Bills.
But the Panthers can’t be thinking playoffs right now, they have to figure out how to win a game.
It would help if they could sustain anything with the ball. Delhomme authored a nice drive in the second quarter, a 90-yard beauty that ended with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dante Rosario. But in the second half, their first five drives were three-and-outs, including the game-clinching pick six by Newman.
On that play, the Panthers had called for Smith to run a quick slant route to the inside. But frustrated by constant double coverage throughout the night, Smith said he “second-guessed my route,” and Newman was able to slip inside for the easy catch and run.
Smith said he was “impatient in my route,” and emphasized several times that the blame lied with him and not his embattled quarterback.
Now, the Panthers have an extra week to second-guess every aspect of their play. They drew a horrible time for a bye, as they have a two-week wait before they play Washington at home.
“I’m ready to play another game right now,” Delhomme said.