Strickly Panthers: Dealing with drought

CHARLOTTE – With the youngest team in the NFL, at an average age just over 25 on opening day, the Panthers' 0-3 start is a new experience for many.

It's nothing new for head coach John Fox.

"This isn't my first barbecue, so I think I'll remain focused," Fox said. "The key thing is going to be to keep our team focused to get better."

Fox, now in his ninth season, has been there, done that -- and done that well.

While the 53-man roster features 15 players who weren't with the organization in 2009, most were around last season when the Panthers started 0-3 but rallied to go 8-5 the rest of the way to reach .500.

Running back DeAngelo Williams was a crucial component in that turnaround.

"We can't focus on the three losses we have already and can't focus on the bad production. We can't focus on the problem; we have to focus on the solution to the problem," he said. "If we focus on the problem too much, we'll get engulfed by it and go 0-16 or 2-14 or whatever."

That's something that hasn't happened on Fox's watch. Since Fox took over as head coach in 2002, the Panthers are the only NFC team not to suffer through a season with double-digit losses (Indianapolis, New England and Denver in the AFC can claim the same).

Six of Fox's previous eight Panthers teams endured a losing streak of three or more games. But, beginning with the game in which they broke the streak through the end of the regular season, Carolina's record is 26-10.

The Panthers' combined regular season record under Fox during seasons that featured a losing streak of three or more games? 48-48.

"You never expect it to start out like this, but you can't go into the tank," linebacker Dan Connor said. "Coach Fox has been in situations like this before. He's been around the league and been around football forever.

"His main thing is to just keep swinging, keep punching. Now is not the time to get down in the dumps and start feeling sorry for yourself. We've got to fight and get better, and that starts with a good week of practice."

Past performance does not guarantee future results. Just because the Panthers have bounced back before from tough stretches doesn't guarantee they'll do so again.

But, when just three of the 102 teams to start the season 0-3 have rallied to qualify for the playoffs since 1990, it's helpful to have someone with a track record like Fox on your side.

"Somebody's always making history," safety Charles Godfrey said. "You have to stay positive and keep on pushing.

"Coach Fox believes in us, and even in this slump, that hasn't changed. He sticks in there."

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