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Carolina Panthers

Strickly Panthers: Smith back in form


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Steve Smith's record-setting touchdown catch against the New York Giants on Sunday looked a little like the one he caught against the Giants last season that resulted in a broken left arm.

Good thing it didn't feel it.

"I was happy that I got up," Smith said. "Overall, my arm feels good. All the screws are still connected, so that's good."

Smith broke the arm on a 27-yard touchdown catch in Week 16 at the old Giants Stadium, and he broke the arm again over the summer.

The only thing he broke Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium was a team record, surpassing Muhsin Muhammad with his 51st TD reception as a Panther.

Still, the Panthers fell short, 31-18, in Smith's first game appearance in 2010.

"I ran some good routes, and I ran some shaky routes. I ran some impatient routes," said Smith, who finished with five catches for 75 yards. "Offensively, we probably left some plays on the field. We made some errors that we probably wish we could get back.

"But it's just the first week, and bizarre things happen in the first week in the NFL. It's the team that figures out how to make plays and has the least amount of mistakes. Hopefully we'll be that team next time."

Smith offered support for his quarterback, Matt Moore, who completed 14 of 33 passes for 182 yards and who got picked off three times in the end zone.

"I think Matt played good," Smith said. "I'm not his coach so I can't really give him a grade.

"Matt made mistakes. I made mistakes. There were other guys that made mistakes as well. You can't point the finger at anybody. You've just got to look at how you did and what you did and try to persevere and move forward."

Smith said he had a chance to speak to Moore after the quarterback suffered a concussion late in the game.

"It's a tough break for him, but I think he'll be fine," Smith said. "He'll be all right."

CONNOR'S COMING OUT: Linebacker Dan Connor made quite an impression in his debut as the Panthers' starting middle linebacker – both on the Giants and on the Panthers' former middle linebacker.

"I think he played great," weakside linebacker Jon Beason said. "It was a great start for him."

Connor contributed a team-high 13 tackles, including a team-high three of the Panthers' seven tackles for loss, and he had Carolina's lone sack. Connor had 19 defensive tackles in 16 games as a reserve in 2009.

Beason added 10 tackles in his first start on the weak side, and James Anderson had nine tackles and his first career interception from his strong side spot.

Thomas Davis' knee injury that landed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list led to the shifts in the linebacker lineup.

HARDY EFFORT: Rookie defensive end Greg Hardy's late-game antics didn't make the difference between winning and losing, but Hardy made the type of plays that could make the difference down the line.

Hardy blocked a punt for a safety to account for the Panthers' lone second-half points, and he forced an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble in the red zone late to keep the score respectable.

"The game wasn't over," Hardy said. "We had a lot of life left in us, and I was trying to get out there and show it."

Had Hardy's punt block turned out a little differently, it could have changed the outcome. The Panthers looked to be done, down 31-16 with four minutes left, when Hardy came around the end and blocked Matt Dodge's punt near the 20-yard line. He blocked it too well, sending it bounding 30 yards out of the back of the end zone.

Had the Panthers been able to recover it in the end zone for a touchdown, it suddenly would have been a one-possession game.

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