|John Fox defends himself, team as pressure cranks up for Panthers|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 13 November 2007 00:05|
A day after Carolina's third straight loss and its sixth straight at home dating to last season, the airwaves and Internet were full of people taking the Panthers' coach to task for everything from his love for draw plays to the way he claps his hands on the sideline.
As Fox met with the media on Monday, he wanted to make a few points: He doesn't think he's conservative and he thinks the Panthers are doing the best they can after losing starting quarterback Jake Delhomme to a season-ending elbow injury.
``I'd remind all our fans that in only one of those six (home losses) did our starting quarterback play,'' Fox said. ``I think that's not an excuse, it's reality. We deal in reality. Of those six games, your starting quarterback is only in one of them. Sometimes that's not ideal.''
Fox also disputed his label as a conservative coach. While Fox acknowledged the number of times he's gone for it on fourth down in his six years in Carolina could be ``counted on one hand,'' he's tired of being criticized for his style.
``We've won some games around here. I think it's been effective,'' Fox said. ``I'm not ashamed of the games we've won here or our record here.''
Despite leading Carolina to a Super Bowl appearance and an NFC championship game in six seasons, Fox clearly knows he's under pressure. At 4-5, the Panthers are only a game out of first place in the weak NFC South, but they appear to be in a free fall.
Carolina has scored two offensive touchdowns in the past three games, has no stability at quarterback, an inconsistent running game and receiver Steve Smith can't get the ball. While the defense has improved, it broke down in the final minute Sunday, when tight end Alge Crumpler got free in the secondary for a 30-yard touchdown catch to give lowly Atlanta a 20-13 win.
The loss ensured the Panthers would go a full calendar year without a home victory. And the fans made it known with a serenade of boos.
``It's like they're taking their turns booing. They boo whoever,'' linebacker Jon Beason said. ``I don't know if they think that helps the situation. ... I would hope they would stay with us from start to finish. But we haven't won a home game, so they should be upset.''
The Panthers' biggest problem is at quarterback. Vinny Testaverde, who turns 44 Tuesday, completed 13 of 28 passes for 153 yards while playing with a sore right Achilles' tendon. Rookie Matt Moore threw an interception on a desperation heave at the end of the game. David Carr sat out and Fox acknowledged Monday that the quarterback has suffered two concussions - not one - in the past month.
Since Delhomme was lost in Week 3, the question of who will start at QB has hovered around the team almost every week. Fox wouldn't say Monday who would get the call next week in Green Bay if both Carr and Testaverde are healthy.
It leaves the Panthers without ``much margin for error,'' Fox said.
That was apparent Sunday, when every mistake was magnified. Fox's rare gamble on fourth-and-1 from the Atlanta 20 early in the game backfired when Steve Smith fumbled out of the end zone for a touchback.
``If I had known we were going to have a (turnover) I would have kicked it,'' Fox said. ``Unfortunately I can't make that call after the play. But some people do.''
Fox was also second-guessed for the draw play in a tie game on third-and-18 with just over a minute left. After DeAngelo Williams gained 12 yards, Jason Baker's poor punt was brought back 23 yards to set up Atlanta's winning score.
Fox defended the call after the game. On Monday he defended his team.
``They played very hard and it gave us a chance to win,'' Fox said. ``I think everybody is disappointed with the way it turned out. Not just us, but the fans. We'll just continue plugging until we can find out a way to win one.''