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Carolina Panthers

Strickly Panthers: Passing game incomplete


CHARLOTTE – When quarterback Jimmy Clausen connected with fellow rookie Brandon LaFell for a 4-yard completion early in the second quarter, it doubled Clausen's passing yardage total and gave Carolina its initial first down of the game.

When Clausen hit rookie David Gettis for a 22-yard gain late in the third quarter, it more than doubled the team's net passing yards.

When Clausen threw for 50 yards on the game's final drive, with Atlanta in a prevent defense, it nearly tripled the team's net passing yards.

For the Panthers' pass offense, Sunday was one of those days…in a season filled with long days.

"It's been kind of a sore spot all season, regardless of who the quarterback has been," head coach John Fox said after the Panthers netted 76 passing yards in a 31-10 loss to the Falcons. "I'd say we're a work in progress, putting it mildly.

"I don't know what else to tell you other than it's not up to speed at this point. We ran the ball efficiently – I thought we blocked it well – but unfortunately that's kind of been our song."

Clausen, who has endured the typical ups and downs of a rookie quarterback in the NFL on a team that's been down, approached defensive captain Jon Beason and apologized for his performance following Sunday's loss.

Clausen finished 14 for 24 for 107 yards, with one interception.

"I thought it was the right thing to do," Clausen said. "I don't feel that I'm playing to the level of capability that I expect from myself."

Beason, who apologized to the media surrounding his locker for his first half performance, appreciated Clausen's sentiment.

"I told him that at times like this, all you can do is just do your job," Beason said. "The quarterback position is tough. You need help from the offensive line, help from the backs and the receivers.

"I just told him, 'Just keep working, and we'll just try to get better.'"

Clausen was under intense pressure much of the day. The Falcons entered the game ranking in the bottom five of the NFL with just 20 sacks through 12 games, but Sunday they came up with five.

"When you throw the ball, it starts with protection," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "A lot of things go into that, but at the end of the day the offensive line is responsible for that, and we've got to do better.

"We had no big plays in the pass game, and you can't be one-dimensional and try to win."

Atlanta's biggest sack essentially closed the door on the Panthers' one chance to get back in the game. Carolina had trailed 17-0 at halftime but got its running game rolling and drove into Atlanta territory, looking to further close a 17-7 gap.

But on fourth-and-4 from the 38, Clausen got pressure up the middle and tried to spin away, only to get dragged down at midfield.

"I have to get the ball out quicker," Clausen said. "I put a lot of it on myself.

"I'm not being as consistent as I want to be. I'm missing some throws here and there, throws that I know I can make."

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