Carolina Panthers

Panthers' positive attitude surrounding 49ers game long gone after latest loss

CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers coach John Fox was trying to be nice last week. His players shouldn't necessarily expect that moving forward.

Prior to breaking their five-game losing skid (and seven straight at home) against San Francisco a week ago, Fox spent the week emphasizing the positive, trying to lighten the mood, talking about getting back to basics.

Fox said Monday he tried to change the attitude prior to the San Francisco game because of the lengthy home losing streak, which had grown to 378 days before they beat the 49ers.

"Last week's situation was a little unique in that it was going to be a home game," Fox said. "And sometimes you get a mental block, and that's where we were at that stage. It was a little bit different situation this past game.

"You tend to have a little more fun when you're making plays, positive plays."

There were none of the positive plays or feelings after Sunday's 37-6 loss to Jacksonville, when Fox was visibly upset, as he was during and after a similar loss to New Orleans on Nov. 25.

"How can you not be when you get beat like that?" right tackle Jordan Gross said. "That's pretty embarrassing. That hasn't really happened since I've been here.

"You want to know what the answer is and the one problem is but there really is not. I put a lot on our offense. We have to do better."

The loss also brought up the persistent question about division in the locker room, since the defense has been left to play nearly 40 minutes in the last two losses because of the offense's inability to perform.

"We've been doing this a while now, so I don't perceive any problems moving forward with three games to go," Fox said. "Again, our margin for error is not great.

"Our defense knows how they have to play, and we weren't good enough defensively yesterday, either, and everybody in that locker room knows that."

• WILLIAMS MIA: A week after his most extensive work of the season against the 49ers, running back DeAngelo Williams was lost again Sunday. He had just three carries for 7 yards.

Fox said Williams was on the field for more snaps than starter DeShaun Foster (33-24), but the game situation kept him from having a chance to run.

"Sometimes the way the game's going and the opponent's defense dictates that," Fox said. "It's not all based on carries, it's also opportunities.

"We had less carries after that (momentum swing) early in the third quarter. We didn't have as many runs, so they're hard to split up."

• PLAYOFF TALK: The Panthers aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. In the NFC, only San Francisco and St. Louis are, according to the league.

But the scenarios could impact them still. Their next two opponents have clinched spots, and their last one's close.

Seattle has clinched the NFC West and won't have much position to play for when it comes in this weekend, since moving into a bye week is unlikely at two games back with three to play.

Dallas has clinched the NFC East and wraps up a first-round bye with its next win or tie or a Seattle loss or tie.

Likewise, Tampa Bay clinches the NFC South with its next win or New Orleans' next loss, and it's not close to playing for a bye, either.

"I don't think they were thinking about the playoffs," Fox said of his guys. "I know somebody tried to bring it up last week. All our focus is going to be trying to get better. Yesterday wasn't good enough and it won't be good this week. We need to find some answers. Same thing I've been telling them for about 10 weeks."

• EXTRA POINTS: Fox said guard Jeremy Bridges was getting his abscessed tooth extracted Monday. He wasn't able to play because of the pain when part of his pregame meal hit the cavity. He was scheduled to have the tooth removed Tuesday. ... Fox reported no other injuries.