First Look: Carolina

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Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme has a strained right elbow and will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis, according to coach John Fox.

Fox said Monday that Delhomme had an MRI that revealed a strain and will not require surgery. However, it's uncertain if Delhomme will play this Sunday when the Panthers host Tampa Bay with first place in the NFC South on the line.

If Delhomme can't go, then David Carr would get the start.

"It's a strained elbow that won't require surgery," Fox said. "It's a rehab situation. I know that you hate hearing this, but he's day-to-day."

Fox did not have an immediate update on linebacker Dan Morgan, who injured his hamstring and heel in Carolina's 27-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Delhomme is off to his best statistical start of his NFL career with eight touchdowns and only one interception. His quarterback rating is 111.9, which is tied for first in the NFC with Dallas' Tony Romo and ranks behind only Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Chad Pennington of the New York Jets in the league.

Delhomme injured his elbow in the third quarter after getting sacked by Falcons defensive end John Abraham. He remained in the game and threw a touchdown to Jeff King to tie it up at 17-17. But on the next series, Delhomme grimaced as he grabbed for his elbow after completing a short pass in the flat to Brad Hoover. He went down on one knee as trainers attended to him.

Delhomme said he tried to play through the pain, but it became too much to bear after the completion to Hoover.

"On the play to Hoover, it was like 'OK, enough trying to be Mr. Macho,' " Delhomme said after the game. "I was going to hurt my team (by staying in the game). I wasn't going to do the right thing."

Delhomme compared the injury to pulling a muscle.

"After I got sacked, it didn't feel good from that point on," Delhomme said. "I was able to make a few throws after that."

Carr relieved Delhomme and three plays later, the Panthers scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 10-yard run by DeShaun Foster. Carr completed all but one of his four pass attempts on Sunday for 56 yards and led the Panthers to two scores and a clock-killing drive.

Carr said after Sunday's game that he's comfortable running the offense if the Panthers need him to start Sunday against Tampa Bay.

"Yeah, I've done it before," said Carr, who has started 75 career games. "And you don't have to do a lot. This team has a lot of talent. If you run the team the way Jake does, I mean he's been putting up great numbers and putting us in position to win football games, the rest of the guys take care of it. It's good to be on a football team like that."

NOTES, QUOTES

QB David Carr said he had no inkling that Jake Delhomme had injured himself on a sack by Falcons DE John Abraham and was as shocked as anyone when he took himself out of the game.

"It was like 15 seconds of chaos," Carr said.

Carr led the Panthers to two scoring drives and then helped the team run out the clock.

"He looked fine and we were rolling," Carr said. "When he came off, it was a shock to everyone because we weren't expecting it. We didn't see anything happen. When that happens -- and I've had problems with the right arm -- that isn't much fun as a quarterback. You've got to get out of there."

Carr said he didn't try to do anything tricky.

He only attempted four passes, completing three for 56 yards, including a 38-yard strike to Keary Colbert.

"I just ran the play on the wristband, honestly," Carr said. "I don't get a lot of reps in practice. (Quarterbacks coach) Mike McCoy does a good job of getting me as many as he can. You just get a feel of the game, but it's nothing like it until you get out there."

MORGAN'S DAY: The Panthers also lost middle linebacker Dan Morgan twice on Sunday to injuries.

He left in the first half after injuring his shoulder. He later left for good in the second half after injuring his hamstring and his foot on the same play. He will have tests today.

"Early my shoulder was bothering me and I came in and got a different brace," Morgan said. Then later I was chasing their back (Jerious Norwood) and I strained my hamstring and hurt my heel. I have to check it out."

Morgan said he's more concerned about his hamstring and heel than his shoulder.

FOSTER, RUN GAME GET ROLLING: DeShaun Foster ran for 122 yards on 20 carries against Atlanta, 81 of those coming in the second half. In his past six games against the Falcons, Foster is averaging 104 yards with six total touchdowns.

"That is the type of ball that we want to play and that is what got us to the Super Bowl (in 2003)," Foster said. "But we still have a lot of work to do this season. We have to work hard to establish the run. We still have Steve and Keary Colbert and Drew (Carter) on the outside and we just have to keep it going."

RB DeShaun Foster had runs of 12, 13 and 11 on a clock-killing drive in the fourth quarter for Carolina. He finished with his first 100-yard game of the season, rushing for 122 yards and scoring twice.

With DeAngelo Williams pitching in with 47 yards on 11 carries, the Panthers totaled 175 yards on the ground.

Said coach John Fox: "We knew we were going to lean on him heavy this week and I thought he and DeAngelo Williams both ran well. But particularly DeShaun, he stepped up big today."

ANDERSON BETTER BE READY: James Anderson relieved the injured Dan Morgan and played about 25 snaps on Sunday against the Falcons. It's possible the Panthers could move Jon Beason inside if Morgan can't play this week.

That would give Beason, a rookie, a week to learn the middle linebacker spot.

BRIDGES LIFTS OL: The Panthers felt like they got a big lift from Jeremy Bridges returning to play right guard following a two-game suspension.

"I think Jeremy Bridges brings some life," said Delhomme. "He's got a little stuff with him I guess you can say."

WHO DIDN'T PLAY?: Carolina's inactives on Sunday included wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, defensive ends Stanley McClover and Charles Johnson, linebacker Adam Seward, guard Evan Mathis, tackle Frank Omiyale, tight end Marcus Freeman and quarterback Matt Moore.

The fact that McClover didn't play came as a bit of a surprise because Fox listed him as probable on Friday's injury report.

SMITH'S SLOW DAY: WR Steve Smith was held to just one catch for 10 yards, but forced DeAngelo Hall into committing three costly penalties in a crucial third-quarter drive that resulted in a Carolina touchdown.

COLBERT DROPS MORE PASSES: WR Keary Colbert remained Carolina's No. 3 receiver on Sunday despite three drops the week before against Houston. Colbert finished with three catches for 52 yards, including a 38-yard reception from David Carr.

KING OF THE DAY: TE Jeff King led all Carolina receivers with four catches for 56 yards.

ALSO: KR Nick Goings remained Carolina's kick returner on Sunday despite a fumble the previous week against Houston. … CB Ken Lucas and the Panthers pass defense continue to struggle. Carolina gave up 361 yards passing to Joey Harrington, including two touchdowns. Lucas blew a coverage and then missed a tackle on a 69-yard pass from Harrington to Roddy White.
REPORT CARD VS. FALCONS

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Jake Delhomme and David Carr both finished with quarterback ratings above 110. Delhomme completed 10 of 18 passes for 109 yards with two scores. Carr did what he had to do, leading two scoring drives and helping run out the clock.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- If only DeShaun Foster could play against the Falcons every week. He ran for 122 yards against the Falcons and, most importantly, helped run out the clock in the fourth quarter. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry and now has run for at least 100 yards in four of the last six games against Atlanta. The Panthers ran for 175 yards on 36 carries.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Another poor performance for the Panthers in the passing game as they made Joey Harrington look like a star. Harrington completed 31 of 44 passes for 361 yards and two scores. They only sacked him once. The Falcons had given up 13 sacks in their previous two games. And how about the poor tackling by Ken Lucas on Roddy White's 69-yard touchdown reception?

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Panthers limited the Falcons to 91 yards on the ground and forced a Warrick Dunn fumble. On that play, Chris Harris simply ripped the ball out of Dunn's hands. Dunn was cognizant of that fumble for the rest of the game and you could tell by the way he ran.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- John Kasay did his job, nailing two big field goals, but the coverage teams simply aren't playing well. Sooner or later, they will give up a big play. Also, the Panthers continue to get nothing out of their return game with Nick Goings and Ryne Robinson.

COACHING: B -- Jeff Davidson really had a good game plan and he stayed true to the running game until the end, which will do wonders for this team's confidence. Carolina's defense simply isn't clicking as well right now, especially against the pass.


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