Carolina Panthers

Panthers take NFL lead in penalties

CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers are No. 1, though not in the way they'd like.

The Panthers registered another 11 penalties (for 90 yards) Sunday, helping them break last week's four-way tie and take sole possession of the league lead with 38. The only good news is they had 12 last week in Minnesota.

"They are down from the week before, so you would like to have none, but that doesn't happen very often," coach John Fox said. "We will continue to emphasize that and hopefully eliminate them."

While many of the early ones were of the 5-yard false start variety, they started piling up bigger yardage against the Falcons, thanks to 15-yarders against Julius Peppers, Na'il Diggs and Darwin Walker.

Their 251 penalty yards stand fifth in the league, behind Green Bay (35-322), Tampa Bay (32-291), New Orleans (29-280) and Dallas (31-259).

On an individual level, tight end Dante Rosario moved into the team lead with his fifth false start penalty. Right guard Keydrick Vincent added his first of the year, which gives the Panthers 15 in four games.

It's out of the ordinary for a Fox team to post such totals. If they continue this torrid pace, they'd finish with 152 penalties for 1,004 yards.

They've never matched that number of flags, and the yardage is close to record-pace, lagging behind the 123-for-1,020 in 2004. Three times under Fox, they've been penalized fewer than 100 times for less than 800 yards.

Fox couldn't remember such a pace and shrugged off a question about whether it was particularly concerning considering his "smart and tough" mantra.

"I'm more concerned about our record than stats," Fox replied. "And the most important stat is that W and L column. Always has been and always will be. I think I've even said stats are for losers."

• INJURY UPDATE: Fox had no updates on injured players. Tackles Jordan Gross (concussion) and Jeff Otah (ankle) were unable to finish Sunday, and quarterback Jake Delhomme (quadriceps) and defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu (elbow) hobbled to the end of the game.

Gross was knocked out cold in the first quarter, after taking a knee to the head. While conventional wisdom for players who black out from a blow to the head has been to sit at least a week, Fox is going to wait and listen to the team doctors and training staff on how to handle Gross.

"I don't think there is hard and fast rules on really any injuries, in particular head injuries," Fox said. "I just rely on what the doctors say. They are way further along evaluating that than they were, say, 15 years ago. So we just rely on what the medical people say and go from there."

• THE LAST WORD: After being embarrassed the previous week in Minnesota, the Panthers made a point to prepare for the Falcons.

"We presented a challenge to ourselves to go out and present a 60-minute complete game, defense and offense," cornerback Ken Lucas said. "We didn't play the way we wanted to play last week. We showed a lot of promise.

"It wasn't complete or great or perfect, but we did enough to win this game, and that's something to look at and be happy about but yet find things we can improve on."

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