Carolina's victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday was tempered by the news that starting quarterback Jake Delhomme would be placed on injured reserve with a strained right elbow, effectively ending his season.
Delhomme tried to throw at Bank of America Stadium on Monday, but experienced pain in his elbow and will have surgery next week, according to head coach John Fox.
Delhomme injured his elbow in Carolina's Sept. 23 win over Atlanta.
"He was going to try to go through rehab and see where he stood," Fox said. "There were other options -- surgery being one of those options.
"But he didn't think things went too well (trying to throw). Some of the soreness he had in the Atlanta game was still there."
Delhomme, who was not available for comment, reluctantly signed off on the decision after things didn't go well on Monday.
"Jake was very honest and forthright about the injury," Fox said. "He's a very tough individual, but if you don't have your fastball it's very tough."
Fox said he expects Delhomme to be ready for next season.
"To my knowledge, he should be ready for next season," Fox said. "With each one of these things they are so different. Guys react different to surgeries and I'd prefer not to put time frames on it because it's a guess. My understanding is he should be ready for next season."
The Panthers are expected to sign a free-agent quarterback this week to take Delhomme's roster spot, but Fox wouldn't say if the team had any visits lined up.
They aren't the only team in the market for a quarterback, however.
They will have to compete with the Arizona Cardinals, who need someone to fill in after losing Matt Leinart on Sunday to a broken collarbone. The Cardinals only have one quarterback on their active roster -- Kurt Warner.
"We know we're going to be doing something, but at this point we don't know what it is," Fox said.
Fox said he had no idea what the surgery entailed.
Delhomme, who is 36-27 as Carolina's starting quarterback, was off to the best start of his career with a rating of 111.9 through three games. He was 2-1 and had thrown eight touchdown passes and only one interception.
"Any time you lose your starting quarterback, it is a blow," Fox said. "He was playing well. I think that's pretty well documented. He's not only our starting quarterback but what he brings to our football team will be missed."
Meanwhile, there was no update on Carr, who injured his back during Sunday's win against New Orleans, although he did return to the game.
Fox said Carr was very sore and said he would be reevaluated on Wednesday. If Carr can't go, then rookie Matt Moore would get the start.
"We like Matt Moore and we liked him enough to claim him off waivers," Fox said. "I like the way he's gone about his business thus far. He will be getting a little more (practice) time than he has in the past."
Carr was able to return -- with the help of several pain pills and cortisone injections -- but he's expected to be pretty sore all week as the Panthers prepare for their final game before the bye week against the Arizona Cardinals.
"I feel two different feelings in reality," Carr said. "From a health standpoint, I'm pretty sore and it's probably not going to get any better for the next few days. My head's a little foggy. Other than that, on the plus side, I know God was with me out on that field."
Carr's injury occurred during the first quarter after getting swarmed under on a sack by Will Smith. He felt his back crack several times as it got twisted under the pile.
"The trainers called it a mean chiropractor," Carr said. "Basically that's what it was. I got realigned. But not to the point you ever want to be realigned. We're looking at some of the x-rays and it's pretty straight. It's something I wouldn't wish on anybody."
Carr said after the game the injury was so painful he thought his NFL career was over.
"When I got hit, I felt like I got sat on and twisted, and every bone in my back popped all the way to the back of my neck," Carr said. "It was by far the worst pain I've ever felt in my life. There was no doubt. I was rolling around out there like an idiot, but that's how it felt. I didn't know honestly if I'd ever play again, to tell you the truth. That's how bad it felt."
Don't look for Carr to practice much this week, which will mean Moore should get plenty of reps.
Beason had been starting at weak side linebacker this season, but middle linebacker is actually his more natural position. And it showed as he finished with a game-high 13 tackles on Sunday.
"I think they just wanted to see what would happen," Beason said. "I think I responded fairly well. I'm not satisfied. I think there's a lot I can still improve on, and we'll just keep moving forward."
With Beason moving to the middle, the Panthers used Na'il Diggs at weakside linebacker. Anderson came off the bench on some passing downs. Beason's biggest concern coming in had been making the calls and getting everyone lined up, but he said he got plenty of help in that area from Diggs and fellow linebacker Thomas Davis.
Kris Jenkins, who called out his teammates after last week's loss to Tampa Bay for playing with a lack of heart, said he was pleased with the effort on Sunday.
"We found a way," Jenkins said. "That's what I feel we've been missing. We've been missing that camaraderie, that team-ship. That teamwork, love for the game. That's what I felt we had this week, we got that back. If we keep building on this, on this game and in this fashion, we'll be a special team."
Jenkins said he doesn't regret making the statement last week.
"I felt like in my mind there was no other way to do it," he said. "Even though nobody likes things put out in the media, if it's out there, men are going to step up. And men stepped up. That was it.
"Before the game, John Kasay gave a great motivational speech as well, basically saying, the soldiers step up. That's the team I'm proud of. That's the team I love going out there with on Wednesday and Thursday and going through the work to come to Sunday and enjoy the best of it. I think that was a great team effort."
David Carr said he's impressed with the Panthers' character on Sunday.
"It was phenomenal," he said. "I wasn't here when they went to the Super Bowl, but I'm walking up to all the defensive guys thanking them for stopping them. It was like my life was out there on the line. It felt like they picked it up and stepped up for me after I threw the big interception (in the fourth quarter). The guys on defense were saying that's the kind of feeling they had in '03 when they made that run, guys stepped up and made plays for each other. Once that starts happening, a football team can be pretty dangerous."
On Saturday night, coach John Fox gave maligned defensive end Julius Peppers a little pep talk.
Peppers has yet to record a sack in five games but did come up with a big game on Sunday that included six tackles, two batted balls and one huge blocked field goal.
"He's a fine football player and I told him something last night that Michael Strahan broke the all-time (single-season) sack record even though he didn't have a sack after five games that year," Fox said. "So you never lay down your sword. Keep battling. They will come. Don't be influenced by what people are saying on the outside. ... And he won't be."
Too bad those facts were wrong.
Strahan actually had 8.5 sacks after five games that year.
"Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story," Fox said Monday after realizing his facts were incorrect.
Sunday marked the 11th time in his career that Kasay has kicked the winning field goal.
"They are all big," Kasay said, when asked where this kick ranked on his list of most important game-winning field goals. "It's fun to be able to contribute. I have done this for a few years and it still means as much as it did as when I was 21."
The humble Kasay was quick to deflect praise, saying that his teammates deserved the credit for the win because they fought so hard.
"We had a lot of adversity but guys kept pounding," Kasay said. "That is the fun thing, that they are rewarded for the sacrifice and the belief that they had in continuing to fight. That is what makes me proud of those guys."
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
CB Ken Lucas had a solid game for the Panthers with nine tackles and two pass breakups.
WR Steve Smith had just four catches for 47 yards, but he found the end zone for the first time in three weeks.
LB Jon Beason moved inside for his first start in the middle on Sunday. He had been playing weak side linebacker. That move could signify the Panthers expect Dan Morgan will be out several weeks with a partially torn Achilles tendon.
DE Julius Peppers still does not have a sack this season, but did block a fourth-quarter field goal, changing the momentum of the game.
REPORT CARD VS. SAINTS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Yes, David Carr showed some heart returning from a back injury, but to say the Panthers played well in the passing game would be a stretch. They were never in sync and Carr, playing most of the game with a painful back injury, was just 10 of 17 for 119 yards with one touchdown pass to Steve Smith and one interception that nearly cost his team the game. Matt Moore played well briefly filling in for Carr, leading the Panthers to a field goal behind a 43-yard pass to Keary Colbert (four catches, 74 yards). Smith only caught four balls for 47 yards, but made some big plays -- perhaps none bigger than fighting through two tackles to pick up two extra yards and a first down on the winning drive.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- The Panthers weren't able to get much going on the ground, but they didn't panic and got DeShaun Foster 19 carries. And when that happens, the Panthers are almost always guaranteed a win. They have a 22-2 record when Foster carries the ball more than 15 times in a game. Foster finished with 59 yards, but 42 of those came in the second half. Still, he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and the Panthers as a team ran for only 88 yards. That needs to improve for this to be a playoff team.
PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- Richard Marshall and Chris Harris came up with Carolina's first two interceptions of the season. Granted, the Panthers shot themselves in the foot with several costly penalties in the second half, but they won this game by refusing to break and holding the Saints out of the end zone in the fourth quarter. Still no sacks for Julius Peppers, but he tipped two balls and blocked a field goal. Jon Beason was very solid in the middle. He had a game-high 13 tackles. Cornerback Ken Lucas had nine tackles and two pass breakups. Carolina needs to do a better job of getting off the field on third down. The Saints converted eight of 16 attempts.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Panthers did a solid job containing Reggie Bush, holding him to 67 yards on 21 carries. As a team, the Saints ran for 89 yards on 28 carries (3.2 YPC) and one touchdown. The longest run was 13 yards. All told, a pretty solid effort for Carolina.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- This was a complete team win for the Panthers in all three phases. Not only did Peppers block a 22-yard field goal, but John Kasay nailed a 52-yarder at the end of regulation to win the game. Carolina's return game had problems handling Olindo Mare's short kickoffs. The only big mistake here was allowing the Saints to convert a fourth-and-four on a fake punt.
COACHING: B-plus -- The Panthers still aren't gelling on offense, but the coaching staff did a nice job of keeping this team together after a week of turmoil. This game could have gone either way, but the Panthers showed heart and wouldn't let their season slip away. Great defensive game plan by Mike Trgovac.