Carolina Panthers

Chances are slim, but Panthers still alive

Saints defenders Will Smith, bottom back, and Charles Grant combine to sack Panthers quarterback David Carr on Oct. 7.
Saints defenders Will Smith, bottom back, and Charles Grant combine to sack Panthers quarterback David Carr on Oct. 7.

CHARLOTTE -- Sure, the hope is slim. But at this point, having any is enough for them.

The Carolina Panthers are 4-6 with six games to play, but take a small measure of comfort in the fact that other teams have overcome such holes.

Since the Wild Card round was introduced in 1990, six teams have started with the same record and made the postseason.

In 1996, second-year Jacksonville even made it to the AFC Championship Game from such a perch.

The other teams were New Orleans in 1990, New England in 1994, Detroit in 1995 and 1997 and San Diego in 1995.

The Panthers and Saints, both 4-6 and two games behind Tampa Bay, could make history since they have a chance to become the first to win a division with a losing record after 10 games.

That's why they're confident they can still make a run.

"There's no question," quarterback Vinny Testaverde said when asked if there was enough time. "The good news is, as poorly as we feel like we've played this year with our record, we're in a pretty good position to accomplish our goals and get into the playoffs.

"But we can't really focus on playoffs right now, we've got to focus on one game at a time. And right now that's the Saints."

Of course, the Saints singing the same song. New Orleans recovered from an 0-4 start to get back to .500, only to lose the last two.

"Our next three games are against division opponents; we know if we win those three games we will have a great chance at winning the division," Saints defensive end Will Smith said. "Coach (Sean) Payton told us that today and he has been saying it all year. We are never really out of it, and we are in good position to win these games and make it to the playoffs. That is our main goal, to take it one game at a time.

"Win this one game against Carolina and take it one game against Tampa and Atlanta until we get to the end of the season. He challenged everybody that we have a six-game season left. We have the ability to finish 10-6. Everybody is taking up the challenge and getting prepared to win this one game and continue on with that."

• REMEMBERING THE LAST TIME: As difficult as this week is for David Carr, having officially been replaced by Testaverde, he smiled when asked about the trip to New Orleans in October.

Even though he suffered what was later diagnosed as a concussion along with compression fractures in his back, he returned to the game to lead the Panthers to a comeback win.

"That was definitely in my top five," Carr said. "Just because of how I felt overall and how the team rallied behind me. In the huddle they knew how I felt. They knew what was going on and they stepped up play after play all the way to the end. That was definitely one of my most exciting times playing ball."

Of course, the injury suffered that day also played a part in his losing the job he was supposed to own after Jake Delhomme's injury.

"That's why I say this year has been wild trying to explain," Carr said. "If you told me before the season all this was going to happen, maybe if I was back in Houston or a couple of years ago. But this has been not what I expected -- and not what a lot of people expected probably.

"But I just haven't felt great all year and I'm just still looking for that day. (Wednesday) was close, but I'm still looking for that day."

• EXTRA POINTS: Both running back DeShaun Foster (toe) and defensive tackle Damione Lewis (shoulder) returned to practice Thursday after missing the day before. Cornerback Chris Gamble (thumb) was held out again, though he could play with a cast.

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