CHARLOTTE – From the go-ahead touchdown reception in the 2008 BCS National Championship triumph to a touchdown catch in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, Panthers rookie wide receiver Brandon LaFell has fond memories of the Louisiana Superdome.
But Sunday, when Carolina takes on the New Orleans Saints, LaFell will encounter a decidedly different dynamic than the one he enjoyed during his days at Louisiana State.
"It's going to be way different coming in on the opposite end of being the home team," LaFell said. "At LSU, every time we played there we were the home team. Coming in as a visitor, it's going to be a little different, but that place gets loud no matter what."
Panthers fans will be outnumbered at the Superdome, but LaFell will have an impressive number rooting him on – assuming he's able to secure enough tickets.
"I've got a lot of family trying to come this week. I've got to come up with way more tickets than I expected, more than my budget was for this game," LaFell said. "We get two tickets for road games, and I'm far away from where I need to be -- around the thirties."
The Panthers might need to score in the 30s to keep pace with a potent Saints offense. Through three games, the Panthers have 32 points.
"We can't go out there and just score seven points against a team that has a high-powered offense, that has so many weapons, and they're clicking – unlike us," LaFell said. "We're just not making enough plays. We're getting enough opportunities, but we're not making enough plays."
If the Panthers hope to get healthy against the Saints, they need to figure out a way to make quarterback Drew Brees uncomfortable.
Getting healthy at defensive end would help that cause.
Ends Tyler Brayton (ankle) and Greg Hardy (foot) missed practice for the second straight day on Thursday,
"We have a backup plan," head coach John Fox said. "We'll find out whether it's pretty good or not come Sunday."
Rookie Eric Norwood could be a part of that plan. Norwood, who was inactive last week but saw some snaps in each of the first two games, understands the challenge that Brees presents.
"He's so smart," Norwood said. "He gets the ball out quick, doesn't take too many sacks."
Norwood, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and offensive lineman Duke Robinson attended funeral services in Atlanta on Monday for Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley.
Norwood and Munnerlyn played at the University of South Carolina with McKinley; Robinson grew up in the Atlanta area with McKinley.
"It was tough, but they made it into a celebration. That was the best thing about it," Norwood said. "People just have to remember everything he did and what type of person he was while he was here. We've just got to reflect on the good times."
While Norwood, Munnerlyn and Robinson paid their respects to McKinley, the rest of the team did something a little different Monday: Rather than splitting up to review game film, the offense and defense watched together.
"It allowed the team to see how hard everyone is working to get better," rookie defensive tackle Andre Neblett said. "We've been struggling so far, so to see the offensive linemen and quarterbacks and running backs working together, that was great for the whole team.
"Usually we'll address the problems that we had as a defense and see what we needed to fix, but we had no idea what the offense was doing except maybe for hearing some yelling."
Neblett, who said the two units at Temple watched film together all the time, thought the session helped.
"We know they've had some injuries on their side and they're fighting," Neblett said. "We told those guys, 'We're going to try our best to hold up our end,' and told them to keep pushing."
QUICK HITTERS: Starting right tackle Jeff Otah (knee) keeps working toward his season debut but doesn't yet know when it will be. "I miss being able to play and hit somebody else," Otah said, "but we've got guys out there who are working hard and playing hard, and I feel very confident in what they're going to do out there." … Wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who was inactive last Sunday, is hoping for another chance against the Saints. "You really can't take it personally. You just have to keep working," Jarrett said. "I have to stay positive. If you start thinking negative thoughts, it could go downhill."