Carolina Panthers

Panthers aware that points are at a premium

The Panthers' Vinny Testaverde reacts after being sacked in the fourth quarter Sunday. The Panthers have struggled to put points on the board in Jake Delhomme's absence.
The Panthers' Vinny Testaverde reacts after being sacked in the fourth quarter Sunday. The Panthers have struggled to put points on the board in Jake Delhomme's absence.

CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers John Fox knows folks are cranky about the six-game home losing streak, knows they're frustrated at the lack of offensive sizzle.

At the same time, there's not that much more he can honestly say he knows to do right now.

The reality seems to have set in on the Panthers that points are going to be at a premium all year in the absence of quarterback Jake Delhomme. Since they placed their starting quarterback on injured reserve in October, they've scored 52 points in four games (and one of the five touchdowns was scored by the defense, in Sunday's 20-13 loss to Atlanta).

That's why as concerned as he is about morale at home, he's more concerned about offensive output.

"I'd remind all our fans that in only of those six games did our starting quarterback play," Fox said Monday of the wretched home streak. "I think that's not an excuse, it's reality. We deal in reality. Of those six games, your starting quarterback is only in one of them. Sometimes that's not ideal.

"That's the cards we have and we'll continue to push. I'm happy our team fought. They played very hard and it gave us a chance to win. I think everybody is disappointed with the way it turned out. Not just us but the fans. We'll just continue plugging until we can find out a way to win one."

The only one of the current home skid started by Delhomme was the 34-21 loss to Houston this year. Otherwise, the local fans have been serenaded by Chris Weinke, David Carr and Vinny Testaverde.

Want more reality?

The Panthers rank 28th in the league in total offense (291.4 yards per game) and 26th in scoring offense (16.7 points per game).

How about another cold slap to the face?

It's probably not getting any better this week when they go to Green Bay, which has the league's second-ranked scoring defense, along with that Brett Favre guy, who's playing well enough the Panthers are going to have to throw.

Unlike other weeks, they will have options, however.

Fox said that birthday boy Testaverde (he's 44 today) came out of the Falcons game healthy, and that Carr (concussions) should be cleared to practice Wednesday.

When asked the comically hypothetical question of how he'd stack them if both were well, Fox replied: "We'll let you know about those views as the week moves on."

Either way, the Panthers know the last four games are going to be a scramble for points, and they might have to step out of character to get them.

Testaverde admitted as much Sunday night when asked about the continued (and in-vain) efforts to get the ball to wide receiver Steve Smith, who draws constant double teams as opponents dare the Panthers to move the ball otherwise.

"Most of the time they are doubling Steve, so it's hard at times and you don't want to force it," Testaverde said. "Maybe we might have to."

When asked Monday whether they might have to step out of character offensively, Fox said "we're doing anything we can to create offense, and we'll continue doing that."

He's also working to renew hope in his locker room, though it's ebbed away pretty much everywhere else in the city.

As much as no one wants to make excuses, the Panthers know Delhomme's not coming back, and that they'll have to repeat the Testaverde magic of Arizona or Carr's bad-back wonder of New Orleans to stay competitive.

"We've done it twice since we've had quarterback issues," Fox said. "We beat an Arizona team, they've actually won in the league this year, along with New Orleans. We've proved that we're capable.

"We don't have much margin for error. We've sat here at 1-7 in my tenure here and we were able to regroup and that will be the same attempt this year. And we're not nearly as poor record-wise right now."

No, but they did have a quarterback.

• Panthers notebook • 2C


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