NEW ORLEANS -- When he heard the collection of pops, he admitted he was scared.
But somehow, David Carr got back up, and so did the Carolina Panthers, who followed the lead of their resilient but aching quarterback in a 16-13 win at New Orleans.
Carr was sacked in the first quarter by Saints defensive end Will Smith, going down awkwardly and needing help to get off the field before he was carted to the locker room.
"When I got hit, I felt like I got sat on and twisted, and every bone in my back popped all the way to the back of my neck," Carr said. "It was by far the worst pain I've ever felt in my life. There was no doubt. I was rolling around out there like an idiot, but that's how it felt. I was like, 'Stop moving.' I was trying to tell myself, but I couldn't.
"I didn't know, honestly, if I'd ever play again, to tell you the truth. It was that bad, that's how bad it felt."
The coaching staff was equally unsure, as they went to undrafted rookie Matt Moore briefly, with starter Jake Delhomme an emergency glass they didn't want to have to break.
"The fact that he came back is a tribute to the kind of player he is," coach John Fox said. "It was a hard hit. I wasn't sure."
But thanks to what he referred to as divine intervention, the advances in modern pharmaceuticals and an aggressive treatment from the Panthers' training staff, Carr came back out to play in the second quarter, able to do just enough to lead the Panthers to an improbable comeback.
"We came in here and started praying, started loosening up, started taking everything they had in the training room," Carr said. "Swallowed it, shoot it up, everything. Just so I could walk. When I got back out there and started loosening up, it felt good enough. ...
"I could (throw), but it wasn't fun. It was like someone stabbed me in the back every time I threw the ball. That's what it felt like. But I had to do it for these guys. They worked so hard, they played great."
Carr also showed plenty of toughness just to get back to the field. They took X-rays of his spine, and then he got some unique adjustments done.
"They called it a mean chiropractor," he said with a laugh. "Basically that's what it was, I got realigned. But not to the point you ever want to be realigned. We're looking at some of the x-rays, and like 'It's pretty straight.' They did a good job, but it's something I wouldn't wish on anybody."
He said he never asked what they were injecting into his back or what pills he was taking, and he admitted from the podium: "My head's a little foggy." He was also visibly stiff, barely able to bend over to put a small item into his luggage.
Taking snaps was the hard part of his duty, and he said the next-to-last play where he dove to put the team in field goal position was traumatic, a play he couldn't repeat. There were throws he wasn't fully able to make, running was dubious and flying leaps like last week's were out of the question.
But he was able to lead the Panthers to 10 points in the final 10 minutes, connecting with Steve Smith on a tying 17-yard touchdown pass and then a just-enough drive for John Kasay's last-second 52-yard field goal for the winning points.
On the final pass to Smith before the field goal, he said he was surprised offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson called for him to roll to the left, since he wasn't sure he was able to.
"When Jeff called the sprint-out to Steve on the last play, I was like, 'I know they won't think this is coming because I didn't even think this was coming.'"
Of running for the first down: "That wasn't happening. Some of the guys said I had room to run before I saw Steve. I said no way was that happening, Johnny was going to have kick a 60-yarder."
His status for next week is unclear, and the Panthers might have to have another quarterback to practice since Delhomme's not expected back before the bye week. Moore and practice-squader Quinton Porter will have to run things unless reinforcements arrive.
"I'm pretty sore, and it's probably not going to get any better for the next few days," Carr said. "Other than that, on the plus side, I know God was with me out on that field, and this team because some of the breaks we had today would not have just happened. Definitely he deserves a lot of thanks for that."