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October 31, 2010

Panthers maintain ground in race for No. 1 pick

ST. LOUIS – Look on the bright side: At this rate, the Panthers could be in position to get the No. 1 overall pick and author the type of one-year turnaround St. Louis is attempting to pull off.

Because other than maintaining ground in the draft-day positioning, there’s not a whole lot of good to come out of this one – a 20-10 Panthers’ defeat.

Carolina managed just 201 yards, more than half of which came on two drives with St. Louis playing prevent at the end of each half.

Jonathan Stewart was the same 2-yards-and-a-cloud-of-defenders tailback he’s been all year, only this time DeAngelo Williams wasn’t around to at least salvage the rushing game.

Steve Smith let a ball bounce off his facemask and lost a fumble for the second week in a row.

And Matt Moore continued to play the role of Jake Delhomme, 2009 Edition, by repeatedly throwing passes to the other team.

It wasn’t all Moore’s fault, of course. He was pressured on his first pick and had his arm hit as he was releasing the ball on the second INT.

The third one? I guess it was intended for Steve Smith, although Smith never bothered to turn around for the ball.

Asked what happened on the last pick, Moore said, “A lot.”

Moore then apologized for not going into the gory details, saying something about having to see the film. More likely, he was doing the prudent thing by not throwing a teammate and/or coach under the Panthers’ careening bus.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 31, 2010 at 09:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

It's a final: Rams 20, Panthers 10

    In perhaps the Carolina Panthers' worst showing in St. Louis in 2001, they lost 48-14 to the Rams.

    That day, poor Matt Lytle was 15-of-25 for 126 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

    Sunday was awfully familiar.

    Matt Moore and the Panthers offense took a major step back Sunday, losing 20-10 in as inept a display of offense as they've had all year.

    Moore was 23-of-36 for 194 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.

    The only time he looked competent at all was in two-minute situations, which accounted for the second-quarter field goal and the fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell.

    Steve Smith can no longer complain about enough action. Moore looked his way often, but he had at least two egregious drops and fumbled early in the fourth quarter to allow the Rams to salt this one away.

    The loss drops the Panthers to 1-6, meaning they're going to have to work hard to get that benchmark 7-9 record.

    The Panthers ran for just 25 yards on the day. Jonathan Stewart had 14 carries for 30 yards, and the 11-yard loss on a reverse by David Gettis caused them to back up from there.

-- Darin Gantt


Posted by Observer Sports on October 31, 2010 at 03:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

Through three: Nothing to see here

    Not much of interest happened in the third quarter, and it's still 10-3 Rams.

    The Panthers had moments of near-competence on offense, as they began running a little better.

    But mostly, this one's being defined by what's not happening in the passing game. Matt Moore's struggling to find anything downfield, while Rams rookie Sam Bradford has been content to plink away at the Panthers a little at a time.

    The most exciting play of the quarter was the final one, as Captain Munnerlyn ripped off a 31-yard punt return to give the Panthers good field position to start the final period.

    They'll need it.

-- Darin Gantt

Posted by Observer Sports on October 31, 2010 at 03:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

At the half: Rams 10, Panthers 3

    The Rams put 10 points on the board in the second quarter, and that might be plenty today.

    They got a field goal early and a short touchdown pass to Danny Amedola late, using a pair of six-minute plus drives that weren't flashy, but were effective enough I suppose.

    The Panthers simply couldn't do anything with the ball, until an acceptable two-minute drill that got them a 44-yard John Kasay field goal, which cut the lead to 10-3.

    At the end of the half, the Panthers had three first downs, 59 yards and 1 and 8:09 worth of possession.

    This is going to be a long afternoon unless they can run. Jonathan Stewart has four carries for 1 yard. 

-- Darin Gantt

Posted by Observer Sports on October 31, 2010 at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

After one: Still waiting

    Has this game actually started yet?

    If you just tuned in, you didn't miss much, as neither offense has made much of a dent, and we're scoreless after 15 minutes.

    The Panthers have been playing solid defense at least, but this game could be a race to 10.

    The Panthers first offensive play was a flea-flicker, which QB Matt  Moore promptly threw straight to Rams LB James Laurinitis.  A later effort at creativity resulted in a 12-yard loss for WR David Gettis on a reverse. It's hard to say they're missing DeAngelo Williams at this point, because the run game doesn't look much different than it had before.

    The Panthers did make one change in the starting lineup, with DT Nick Hayden replacing Ed Johnson. Hayden's been better, but it's hard to figure why they felt the need to make that change.

-- Darin Gantt

Posted by Observer Sports on October 31, 2010 at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Panthers inactives vs. Rams

    No real surprises among the Panthers inactives. WR Armanti Edwards, DT Andre Neblett, LB Abdul Hodge and CB C.J. Wilson were down, along with the three guys who stayed home (RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Devin Thomas and RT Jeff Otah) and third QB Tony Pike.

    That's going to a put a lot of pressure on RB Jonathan Stewart, but also backups Mike Goodson and Tyrell Sutton.

-- Darin Gantt


Posted by Observer Sports on October 31, 2010 at 11:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Moore encounters low-pressure system

ST. LOUIS – There were four nice folks dressed up as Panthers’ fans at our hotel Saturday night.

Nah, these were honest-to-goodness PSL holders who make one trip a year with the Panthers. The two middle-aged couples were in Boston last year, have been to San Francisco a couple times, and are in St. Louis for Halloween weekend.

Anyway, one of the men talked about how pleased he was with John Fox’s decision to sit Jimmy Clausen and go back to Matt Moore at quarterback. He questioned whether Clausen ever would be a successful NFL quarterback.

We’ll learn much more about Clausen in 2011. But barring injury, it looks like Moore will finish things out this year.

Moore made a damning admission this week, telling reporters that he plays better when the stakes are low and there’s no pressure on him. Moore’s a good guy and almost honest to a fault: Not sure a guy in a contract year should be questioning his ability to perform in the clutch.

Unless the Panthers go on some kind of a tear, it’s doubtful Moore will play in any pressure games the rest of this year. It was in this same type of environment that Moore thrived last year, going 4-1 down the stretch and convincing the Panthers that he could lead a team in games that mattered.

Then he threw three end-zone interceptions at the new Meadowlands in Week 1.

Moore looked terrific last week against San Francisco. He played loose and confident while zipping passes to every part of the field, including those faraway places that Clausen couldn’t reach.

Facing a 3-4 Rams team led by No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford, don’t be surprised if Moore again is the best quarterback on the field today. The Panthers are 1-5; they have nothing to lose.

But one of these days Moore must prove he can win a game when everything’s on the line. Otherwise, he’s likely looking at a life as a career backup.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 31, 2010 at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 29, 2010

DeAngelo Williams out for Rams' game

(UPDATED: The Panthers announced Saturday that RB DeAngelo Williams, OT Jeff Otah and WR Devin Thomas did not make the trip to St. Louis.)

If Jonathan Stewart is looking to kick-start his season, the Carolina Panthers tailback figures to have a golden opportunity Sunday.

Panthers coach John Fox said Friday starting tailback DeAngelo Williams is doubtful for the St. Louis game with a sprained foot.

Williams, the Panthers’ leading rusher with 361 yards, came up limping after a short run during the game-winning drive against San Francisco last week. He did not practice all week.

If Williams can’t go, Carolina has a capable replacement in Stewart.

Though Stewart has struggled to get going this season, averaging 3 yards a carry after offesason Achilles surgery, he excelled in 2009 in these situations. In three starts late in the season when Williams was out with an ankle injury, Stewart averaged 150 yards on 23 carries.

The Panthers won all three of those games. Included in that stretch was Stewart’s team-record, 206-yard outburst against the Giants.

 “We went through it last year both ways. There’s games where Jonathan couldn’t play, and games that DeAngelo couldn’t play,” Fox said. “Regardless of what position on the football team, the next guy’s got to step up. We’ve had a few of those already this year.”

Other than Williams, the Panthers are in pretty good shape on the injury front. Right tackle Jeff Otah continues to be sidelined following August knee surgery; backup receiver Devin Thomas, who was inactive last week in his first game with the Panthers, is doubtful with a groin injury.

Fox would not say whether receiver Steve Smith would return punts again. Smith’s decision to volunteer to run back punts against the 49ers helped energize a Carolina team that was winless through its first five games.

Fox indicated he would stick with the same offensive line the Panthers used against the Niners, with Geoff Schwartz remaining at right guard and Garry Williams getting his second start at right tackle.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 29, 2010 at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

October 28, 2010

Williams' status iffy for St. Louis game

What does Panthers tailback DeAngelo Williams think the chances are he’ll play Sunday at St. Louis?

It’s difficult to know because Williams isn’t talking.

Williams, who sprained his foot on the game-winning drive against San Francisco, missed his second consecutive practice Thursday. And for the second consecutive day Williams avoided the media, telling a team official that he would talk after Sunday’s game.

Panthers coach John Fox, as is his custom, also declined to shed much light on Williams’ injury.

“He’s day to day. He gets a little bit better every day,” Fox said.

Given that the Panthers have another tailback who topped 1,100 yards in 2009 in Jonathan Stewart – albeit a back who is averaging 3 yards a carry this year – Fox was asked whether he felt confident in his depth at the position.

“You always prefer to have everybody healthy, and we could have everybody healthy,” Fox said. “We’ll just make that evaluation, it usually goes to an hour and a half before kickoff.”

Second-year back Mike Goodson has received more practice reps this week with Williams out. Goodson had 14 offensive touches the first three weeks of the season, but has only two in the three games since.

“He’s a player we rely on to use in different situations, aside from special teams,” Fox said. “He’s gotten his touches, and we’ll continue to do that.”

But the bulk of the carries will go to Stewart if Williams can’t play. Stewart said Wednesday he still has pain in his surgically repaired Achilles, but classified it as “not anything tragic.”

In other news, Carolina defensive end Tyler Brayton returned to practice a day after his wife delivered a baby girl. Injury report mainstay Jeff Otah remains out following his August knee surgery, while receiver Devin Thomas was limited with a groin injury he said was minor.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 28, 2010 at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

The case for John Fox in Dallas

1028johnfox Dallas NBC affiliate NBC DFW presents the case for and against Carolina Panthers coach John Fox (left) as the next head coach in Dallas. Read the whole article here, but if you just want the highlights:

Credentials: If Jerry Jones is looking for someone who can run the defense as competently as Wade Phillips did, but without all of Wade’s glaring faults as a leader, John Fox makes perfect sense.
Weaknesses: You know managers who get pilloried for leaving a gassed pitcher in a game for way too long? Well, take that pitcher, make him a QB, and instead of leaving him in for too many innings, have him stay out there for entire games and seasons past his expiration date. That’s what John Fox did with Jake Delhomme.

The station goes on to solicit comments on whether readers want Fox or not, but as of this writing there are none. Hmmm.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 28, 2010 at 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (63)