Offense remains confident

CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers claimed a dubious distinction in the preseason, becoming the first NFL team in at least 14 years to fail to score an offensive touchdown.

While the Panthers aren't proud of having that one in the record book, they also aren't worried about turning the page.

"I've told a lot of people that we're saving all our touchdowns for the regular season," running back DeAngelo Williams said.

The time bank has now closed on saving, with the Panthers poised to open the regular season Sunday at the New York Giants.

"Can it switch?" wide receiver Steve Smith said. "I think it can. I think it will."

Smith is one of the reasons the Panthers aren't harping on their preseason production, or lack thereof. The perennial Pro Bowler didn't play in the preseason while he recovered from a broken arm, nor did 1,100-yard rusher Jonathan Stewart while he recovered from offseason foot surgery. Both are expected to play against the Giants.

Jeff Otah could be a different story. He hasn't practiced since undergoing knee surgery on Aug. 4.

Still, the return of Smith and Stewart has to help.

"That's the plan," quarterback Matt Moore said. "We're just going to prepare hard this week and see what happens Sunday.

"It's about execution. If we play our ballgame, things will fall into place. The coaches are going to put us in good situations; we've just got to execute."

The starting offense played significantly less than half the snaps in the preseason, but now it's their ballgame. Coaching will play a greater role as well.

"In the preseason we spend more time evaluating people and making sure we do our best to pick the right 53 guys. There are not a lot of schemes going on," head coach John Fox said. "I have confidence in our offense. No matter how we move it, I have confidence that we will."

Stewart, too, remains confident. He certainly has reason for confidence against the Giants: Late last season, Stewart shredded New York for a team-record 206 rushing yards in a 41-9 victory.

"Anytime you play a game, you'd obviously like to see everything go right, but the preseason is over with," Stewart said. "Once the regular season starts, everything is at a different speed, and it's a different level of competition.

"You can expect totally different things, and I'm expecting the best."

On the other side of the ball, the Panthers don't want to dismiss the preseason. A young defensive line helped Carolina lead the NFL in sacks, and the Panthers gave up 30 fewer yards per game than any other NFL team and tied for fewest points allowed.

"What we did in the preseason doesn't count, but it was a good start. We've just got to keep it going," defensive tackle Nick Hayden said. "That was the preseason; this is the real stuff right now.

"Obviously it starts with this game."

Williams made mention of the Indianapolis Colts in his effort to point out the pointlessness of preseason records.

The Colts are 4-22 in preseason games since 2005; they're 65-15 in regular season games over the same span.

"We're talking about the preseason, right?" Williams said, doing his best Allen Iverson impersonation. "The Indianapolis Colts, they're what, 2-28 in the preseason, and they haven't lost more than three or four games in the regular season?

"Granted, we're different from the Indianapolis Colts, but it's the preseason."

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