|Panthers' defense won't point fingers toward anemic offense|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 12 December 2007 14:06|
As Harris began to answer, cornerback Richard Marshall started shouting from a nearby locker.
``Tell them the truth, Chris!'' Marshall said. ``Tell them the truth!''
Speaking on Wednesday about the loss, Marshall said he wasn't calling out the offense. It was part of a day of calculated answers to try to stop a growing divide between the offense and defense in Carolina's sinking season.
``What I meant by that was, 'Tell them the truth, we're not playing a good team game,''' Marshall said. ``We're losing. We're not playing good on offense or defense or special teams, and that's contributing to us losing.''
The offense, though, has played the major role in the team's problems. Since Jake Delhomme's season-ending elbow injury in Week 3, the Panthers (5-8) have scored a touchdown or less six times. In two of the past three games, the defense has been on the field for nearly 40 minutes.
On Sunday against Jacksonville, the Panthers managed 10 first downs, 149 total yards and converted two of 12 third downs. The Panthers' defense kept it close for a while, with Jacksonville leading only 10-6 at halftime despite holding the ball for nearly 21 minutes.
Then running back DeShaun Foster fumbled on the first play of the third quarter, leading to a touchdown. Vinny Testaverde had an interception returned for a TD on the first play of the fourth quarter and the Panthers lost 37-6.
``The defense is out there playing hard. We're out there playing hard, too. We're just not getting it done, unfortunately,'' center Justin Hartwig said. ``They're keeping us in games at halftime. But when we can't put the points up, they can only hold them so long.''
Little help appears to be on the way. Testaverde was held out of practice on Wednesday to give his 44-year-old body a rest. Coach John Fox held off saying Testaverde, who was yanked in the fourth quarter, or undrafted Matt Moore, who has a 21.1 passer rating, is the starter for Sunday's game against Seattle.
Testaverde, Moore and ineffective David Carr have combined for eight touchdown passes in the past 10 games. Delhomme had that many in the first three before getting hurt.
And it doesn't bode well that Carolina plays three division leaders - Seattle, Dallas and Tampa Bay - the next three weeks.
``The important thing this week that we haven't been able to do is stay on the field longer and try to help our defense out,'' guard Mike Wahle said.
While the Panthers have the 29th-ranked offense, the defense has recovered from a shaky start to rank 13th. A limited pass rush and a disappointing season for Julius Peppers has limited Carolina to 16 sacks, but the back seven have played well.
Rookie linebacker Jon Beason leads the team in tackles, and Harris has proved to be a good acquisition in a training camp trade with Chicago.
Harris, though, resisted the urge Wednesday to criticize the other side of the ball.
``People try to say that our offense didn't hold the ball long enough, but we're not getting ourselves a chance to get off the field,'' said Harris, who forced two fumbles against Jacksonville. ``We're letting them (convert) 50 percent on third downs. It goes both ways. We could help ourselves a lot. I really don't complain about that.''
Marshall was also quick not to point fingers three days after his odd outburst in another losing locker room.
``Whether we're on the field 40 minutes, whether we're on the field 30 minutes, we've got to get off the field,'' Marshall said. ``I mean, our offense can't get us off the field. They're not out there with us.''
Notes: WR Keary Colbert (knee) and G Jeremy Bridges (abscessed tooth) sat out practice Wednesday. ... WR Dwayne Jarrett did practice after missing the past two games with a sore right knee.