Strickly Panthers: Smith slams Smith

ST. LOUIS – To the casual observer, Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith had a solid game Sunday.

Smith grabbed a season-high nine catches, giving him 600 for his career, and gained 85 yards on another day when the passing attack was held short of 200 years.

Smith, however, is anything but a casual observer, and his observations on his level of play were not kind.

"It's probably one of the worst games of my career," Smith said following Carolina's 20-10 loss at St. Louis. "Offensively, the loss goes on me. I didn't help us win.

"I take full responsibility."

Smith did have a fumble that anyone could see, and it came at a crucial time. As he bounced backwards off a defender near midfield and then tried to head back up the field in an effort to convert a crucial third down, he was stripped from behind.

The Rams cashed in, reaching the end zone to extend their lead to 17-3 early in the fourth quarter.

Smith also had an uncharacteristic drop earlier in the game, letting a ball over the middle bound off his facemask.

Smith, however, didn't stop with the obvious when it came to taking himself to task.

"I think I played horribly. I came out of some breaks sloppily, dropped the ball, fumbled," he said. "Defensively, they didn't do anything I haven't seen, with two or three guys on me. It didn't have anything to do with their defensive scheme; it was the lack of concentration, the lack of focus I had at times on the field.

"I was just trying to press."

Smith's drive to win burns as strong as anyone in a Panthers uniform, so with the inexperience on the current roster, it's understandable that he might press. He volunteered to return punts a week ago and provided a spark, and this week he was targeted 15 times and made numerous plays – just not enough of the type of plays he believes he should be making.

When Smith steps onto the field, he expects the make plays like the one he made at the Edward Jones Dome nearly seven years ago, when his 69-yard touchdown in double-overtime propelled the Panthers to the NFC Championship game.

When such magic doesn't materialize, he becomes his own worst critic.

"I didn't play at a high level," Smith said. "For a few plays, on the plays where I messed up, it was like we were playing with 10 men on the field.

"I've just got to be better, a lot better. That was terrible."

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