09/17/10 — Stevens: Panthers must bounce back quickly

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Stevens: Panthers must bounce back quickly

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on September 17, 2010 1:47 PM

The quarterback and the opponent may have been different, but the result felt much like the season opener from a year ago.

This wasn't Jake Delhomme's five-turnover disaster in the Carolina Panthers' 38-10 loss to Philadelphia to open the 2009 season, but it sure felt like it.

Delhomme's replacement, Matt Moore, was picked off three times in the end zone and also lost a fumble in the Panthers' 31-18 loss at the New York Giants on Sunday.

Moore's decision making in the red zone haunted Carolina all afternoon. His first interception was a floating pass to tight end Gary Barnidge with three defenders blanketing him.

He finished just 14 of 33 passing for 182 yards. Moore held the ball too long on numerous occasions, overthrew open receivers and looked a lot like the quarterback who struggled to move the offense in the preseason.

The Panthers' offensive line struggled to protect Moore who was sacked four times, including three times in the fourth quarter.

Moore was knocked out of the game late and taken to a local hospital with a concussion. His status for Sunday's home opener with Tampa Bay remains uncertain.

Second-round draft pick Jimmy Clausen replaced Moore late in the game and could make his first NFL start on Sunday. Clausen wasn't drafted to hold a clipboard, forever. If Moore's woes continue, the Clausen era in Carolina could start soon.

Head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson abandoned the running game at critical times on Sunday. Carolina opted to pass three times from the Giants' 4-yard line in the second half, the last of those three passes was intercepted.

After gashing New York for a franchise-high 208 yards nine months ago, Jonathan Stewart carried the ball just five times for 12 yards. DeAngelo Williams was held to 62 yards on the ground and the Panthers rushed for just 89 yards as a team.

The defense had its share of troubles as Giants' quarterback Eli Manning was sacked just once against a mostly non-existent pass rush.

Carolina did intercept Manning three times, but safety Charles Godfrey was burned twice on New York's first scoring drive. A pair of pass interference penalties kept another Giants' scoring drive alive in the first half.

Given that Carolina struggled during the preseason (1-3 record) and failed to score an offensive touchdown, Sunday's performance wasn't entirely surprising.

Following Sunday's game with Tampa Bay, the Panthers play Cincinnati, New Orleans twice, Baltimore and a much-improved San Francisco team along with Chicago and St. Louis in the next seven weeks. The Saints, Ravens and Bengals were all playoff teams a year ago.

If Carolina doesn't improve in a hurry, Fox's uncertain future in Charlotte might be a lot clearer by Thanksgiving.