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Fox, Panthers have overcome odds before

Posted Nov 1, 2010

CHARLOTTE – It wasn't the start to the game and certainly hasn't been the start to the season that the Carolina Panthers would want.

The Panthers, however, temporarily bounced back from their opening offensive play against the Rams, and now they hope to bounce back from their overall offensive struggles to open the season – something they have done successfully under head coach John Fox in the past.

On the first offensive snap of Sunday's game, the Panthers reached deep into the playbook to try a flea-flicker, but St. Louis linebacker James Laurinaitis picked off the pass and returned it to Carolina's 37-yard line.

Carolina's defense, however, held the line and forced a long field goal that missed the mark.

"The good news is we were able to overcome that," Fox said. "But just not all of it."

The defense couldn't hold the Rams off over and over again, as the offense turned the ball over four times in a 20-10 loss that dropped the Panthers to 1-6.

Six years ago, the Panthers started 1-7 but won six of their final eight games to finish 7-9 and nearly make the playoffs.

The 2004 team struggled to score early in the season – only topping 20 points once in the first seven games – before the offense caught fire. Beginning with a 27-24 loss to Oakland that dropped Carolina to 1-7, the team tallied 20 or more points in eight consecutive games, including more than 30 in five games.

A running game that featured four different starting halfbacks in the first nine games got going; quarterback Jake Delhomme threw 17 touchdown passes over the second half of the season; and with Steve Smith out of action for all but one game with a broken leg, fellow wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad responded with a career-high 16 touchdown receptions.

This season, Smith is healthy, and the Panthers have to hope quarterback Matt Moore can regain the form that helped him go 6-2 as a starter entering the season. Fox confirmed Monday that Moore will remain the starter when the reigning Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints visit Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.

"I think the first play he would like to have back, but he made some good throws and he did some good things," Fox said. "There were some other areas that broke down on some of the interceptions, so all-in-all, I don't think I can pin it just on him."

Moore didn't get enough help from his receivers Sunday – saying there was player-to-player miscommunication on his last two interceptions – and the running game didn't help the cause, either. Carolina netted 25 yards on the ground.

"I just think as an offensive unit, we're not making enough plays – point blank," said running back Jonathan Stewart, who got the start Sunday in place of an injured DeAngelo Williams. "Every person on the field has to make a play for a play to work."

Moore, coming off his first career 300-yard passing performance, said the offense had a good week of practice leading up to the St. Louis game.
  
"But we missed some things, and you just cannot turn the ball over. We did not have the right formula to win," Moore said. "We have a lot of games left, so we've just got to keep going, keep plugging away and try to get a win.

"We have to keep getting better individually and as a team. You just have to keep that attitude, or you've got no shot."

Fox said the team that started 1-7 in 2004 wasn't "as one-sided as far as the units," a reference to the depths of the current struggles on offense relative to the promising performance of the defense and special teams units.

Still, even with the youngest roster in the NFL, Fox believes the 2010 Panthers have the talent to turn it around.

"I always believe you have enough talent. It's a matter of executing," Fox said. "We have who we have, and we have to get better. That's the challenge."


PERSONNEL UPDATES: Right tackle Jeff Otah said Monday that he wouldn't be ready to practice this week though he's made progress the last couple of weeks in his continued recovery from knee surgery during training camp. "It's getting better every week, but it's just not getting better as fast as I want it to," said Otah, adding that he hasn't thought about shutting it down for the season. "I'm just trying to get back on the field. I miss being out there. I'd love to be out there, helping my guys." … The Panthers have added guard C.J. Davis to the practice squad. Davis was with the team in training camp but didn't make it through the final round of cuts after suffering a concussion. To make room, they waived guard Adrian Martinez, who joined the practice squad in mid-October.