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Carolina Panthers

Strickly Panthers: Injury bug bites hard


CHARLOTTE – Even at full speed, the Carolina Panthers have struggled to produce on offense this season.

Sunday, the Panthers hit even more speed bumps, adding injury to insult in a 34-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

"We're not really a juggernaut right now, and to lose two of your three running backs that are active for the day and your starting quarterback, things can go from not-so good to really bad," head coach John Fox said. "But I'm not going to make any excuses. It's the next man up -- that's how I've always looked at it."

Even so, the Panthers' hopes took a hit when starting quarterback Matt Moore, who led them to their only victory of the season, went down with a shoulder injury early in the second quarter of what was a 7-3 game at the time.

Moore was 3-for-6 for 13 yards when he got hurt, and his status for next week is uncertain. Fox said that Moore would start at Tampa Bay if healthy.

"He can operate our offense the best of the quarterbacks," Fox said. "Unless we decide to go to the wishbone or some sort of option offense, I don't think there's any doubt about that."

Rookie Jimmy Clausen replaced Moore, going 8-for-18 for 47 yards, including an interception that the Saints returned for a touchdown. Rookie Tony Pike replaced Clausen early in the fourth quarter and finished 6-for-12 for 47 yards while leading a pair of drives that stalled in the red zone against a soft Saints defensive approach.

"Our issues offensively start at quarterback, but it's not just the quarterback," Fox said. "We're just not executing very well. I wish I knew the answer."

Injuries rocked the running game as well. Leading rusher DeAngelo Williams missed his second straight game with a foot injury, and Jonathan Stewart – like Williams an 1,100-yarder rusher in 2009 – left with a head injury less than 10 minutes into the game.

The Panthers turned next to Tyrell Sutton, who provided a short-lived spark with a 32-yard run, but Sutton suffered an ankle injury on the first play of the second half and didn't return. That left the ball in the hands of Mike Goodson, who finished with 29 yards rushing and contributed three catches for 18 yards.

The injuries weren't limited to the offense. Linebacker Dan Connor left in the first half with a hip injury and didn't return, and reserve defensive end Greg Hardy – a special teams stalwart – sat out the second half with a head injury.

"It's football. It's highly unfortunate, but guys have to be ready to go whenever their number is called," said linebacker Nic Harris, who replaced Connor and responded with seven tackles and half a sack. "Ultimately, I feel like guys on the sidelines are starters in waiting."

Sunday, many of them didn't have to wait very long.

"Sometimes that's just the way the ball roll," tight end Dante Rosario said. "We can't look at it like, 'Bad luck has just fallen on us.' We just have to respond with whoever goes in there, and we have confidence in whoever is in there."

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