Carolina Panthers

Panthers know key to beating Colts is ball control

CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers know their formula this weekend -- and the rest of the year -- is simple.

They're going to have to run the ball to protect their sore and old quarterbacks and to keep it out of the hands of the Indianapolis offense.

Now comes the matter of doing so, and they know it's going to take a string of physical plays and games to achieve those goals.

"If we're going to win, that's the only way it's going to happen," right tackle Jordan Gross said. "We know there's not going to be a blowout, it's going to be a knock-down, drag-out, four-quarter game. So, that's what everybody around here is getting ready for, a physical game."

The Panthers won their previous meeting with the Colts by rushing 41 times for 189 yards, and controlling the clock for 37 minutes and 52 seconds. DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis split the work that day (Davis was injured), and Foster said it's going to take another combined effort between himself and DeAngelo Williams to repeat that success.

"We're going to have to be able to run the ball in order to beat this team," Foster said. "We're going to have to try to keep their offense off the field; that's a pretty good offense.

"You need two backs right now. We can both get in there with two different styles and keep working off the offense. If we just keep running hard, things are going to happen."

The Panthers are eighth in the league in rushing offense, averaging 132.5 yards per game. While the Colts' defense is ranked third overall, it's 14th against the run (107.3 per game).

• TOUGH CALL: Coach John Fox said running back Nick Goings wasn't progressing from his third concussion as quickly as hoped, which led to Wednesday's decision to put him on season-ending injured reserve. Last week Goings was hopeful he could play against the Colts, but days later, he was being shut down.

"We were fairly optimistic going into the bye week that some of the symptoms of the concussion would eventually go away," Fox said. "Nick's the kind of player that would want to play and probably risk playing, and that's the type of injury that you don't want to mess with.

"We want guys to play when they're healthy. We're not trying to push them out there when we're not convinced they're healthy. Nick's a guy we've got a lot of past with, know what he's like and have been through injuries with him before. I didn't want to risk further injury."

• NEW CAPTAINS: To replace their two original captains now on injured reserve -- quarterback Jake Delhomme and Goings -- the players voted for Gross to join previously elected wide receiver Steve Smith as an offensive captain and John Kasay to succeed Goings as the special teams captain.

Gross jokingly referred to himself as "the third-place captain," since he didn't make the original cut.

• EXTRA POINTS: Foster (toe) returned to practice Thursday after taking Wednesday off. There were no other changes to the injury report, as quarterback David Carr practiced fully and linebackers Dan Morgan and Adam Seward were out. ...

Fox said Carr had no setbacks in coming back from his back injury.

"He's looked good," Fox said. "He had a good practice today. Again, when you don't practice for two-and-a-half or three weeks for any player, I don't care who it is, (it's tough). He's made good progress."

The ever-cagey Fox continued to hold his cards close to the vest regarding this weekend's starting quarterback. When asked if he'd consider playing Carr and Vinny Testaverde, he replied: "I really don't know that at this point."

When asked if the decision was made more difficult by Testaverde's play in Arizona, he said: "Probably tougher than it was a few weeks ago."

The Panthers have made history lately. Thanks to Delhomme, Carr, Testaverde and Matt Moore, they're the first team since the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs to win four of their first six games while using so many passers.

The Chiefs' four that year were Len Dawson, Jacky Lee, Mike Livingston and future Oakland and Seattle coach Tom Flores (one attempt), though running back Warren McVea threw three passes as well that year.

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