NFC South Hot Topic: Oct. 17

Need the inside scoop on the Bucs' rivals in the NFC South? Look no further than the "Hot Topic." Wednesday's edition updates you on injuries and team news. Bucsblitz.com is the only place you can find this in-depth information on the NFC South in one place.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Look for Atlanta's Week 6 Inside Slant wrapup for a complete look at the team. The Falcons played against the New York Giants on "Monday Night Football."

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Who will start at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers when they play host to the Indianapolis Colts a week from Sunday?

Coach John Fox isn't saying.

But clearly David Carr is not a lock to start as most might think.

Fox is contemplating sticking with 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde at quarterback after he led the Panthers to a 25-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals this past Sunday despite practicing with the team only three times last week.

When asked whether a healthy Carr would start against the Colts, Fox replied Tuesday, "I think right now we're going to evaluate it as we go. We have options. We didn't have these same options a week ago or really the last couple of weeks. I'm not going to commit to it now. A lot of it is based on what we see in practice or whoever gives us the best chance to win."

The Panthers paid Carr $3 million a season to be Jake Delhomme's backup and to have around in case things went wrong.

That's why it's amazing to think Testaverde, a guy who wasn't even on a team up until last Wednesday, might be the quarterback to lead this team for the rest of the year.

But given the way Testaverde played on Sunday -- he was 20 of 33 for 206 yards with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith -- it might be hard for Fox to sit him down.

Carr hasn't looked all that sharp in his three appearances.

He's completed 32 of 62 passes for 330 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while being sacked five times. His quarterback rating is meager 64.6.

After watching the game tape, Fox praised Testaverde for what he called a "great preparation performance."

"I don't care about the age or anything -- for anybody to do that, that's a huge accomplishment," Fox said. "The guy played well. It wasn't like he just went out there and handed the ball off every play and got us out of a game.

"He played well. Early on we had to make adjustments with the guys around him. We stayed with the plan. If anything we didn't execute around him early in the game. We stuck with it and cleaned some things up at halftime. We executed better in that game in the second half offensively."

Fox admitted he could not have imagined last week that he would be in a position to choose his starting quarterback, especially given the way the team has been ravaged by injuries at that position.

"Really four days ago when I looked at practice and I saw two guys that weren't with us in September I definitely wasn't worried about all of the options we might have a week later -- or if there would be any options," Fox said.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Jake Delhomme will have Tommy John surgery on Thursday. Delhomme is out for the season.

--QB Vinny Testaverde has a chance to start a week from the Sunday when the Panthers host the Colts.

--QB David Carr is not a lock to start against the Colts after the bye week even if he is healthy and ready to go.

--QB Matt Moore has made cameo appearances in the last two Carolina wins.

--RB DeShaun Foster is averaging 4.2 yards but has only one rushing touchdown in six games.

--RB DeAngelo Williams is coming off a career-high 121 yards against Arizona, but remains Carolina's No. 2 running back behind DeShaun Foster.

--WR Steve Smith had more catches (10) and receiving yards (136) this past week than in his previous three games combined (10-89).

--WR Keary Colbert is making a few more plays this year, but he still isn't a reliable No. 2 receiver.

--WR Drew Carter has disappeared off the face of the earth when it comes to the Carolina offense.

--WR Dwayne Jarrett, the team's second-round draft pick, is inactive.

--TE Jeff King has been a reliable, if not flashy target for the Panthers. He's second on the team in receptions with 18.

--DE Julius Peppers has returned to the spotlight and the Panthers will need him in what amounts to a big game against the Colts after the bye week. Peppers should be fired up to show everyone he's better than Colts DE Dwight Freeney. Carolina equaled its season total with two sacks last week vs. Arizona. Peppers had a hand in both of those.

--LB Dan Morgan is not guaranteed to start at middle linebacker when he returns from an Achilles injury, coach John Fox said. There's a possibility, that with rookie Jon Beason playing so well, Morgan could get moved to the weak side.

--FS Deke Cooper had two picks in Carolina's win over Arizona and has stepped up his play the last two weeks.

--LB Jon Beason has been exception for the Panthers.

--PK John Kasay has been very sharp this season for the Panthers converting 11 of 13 field goals. His only misses are from 47 and 45. He's made 6 of 6 from inside 40.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Through the first four games of the season, the Saints generated very little pass rush as they wobbled to a disastrous 0-4 start -- though the record clearly wasn't entirely the fault of the defense.

Still, one sack in four games was not what defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs expected from his team. So the Saints went into Sunday night's game with the Seattle Seahawks with the goal of getting more pressure on Matt Hasselbeck.

That's what they did as defensive tackle Hollis Thomas broke through and sacked Hasselbeck to end the Seahawks' first possession. On the next play, the Saints turned a botched punt snap into a touchdown and were on their way to a 28-7 lead just before halftime.

Even though the sack by Thomas was the only one they would get in the first half, the Saints blitzed linebackers and safeties more than they had in the first four games and made Hasselbeck uncomfortable.

"Coach (Sean Payton) said he wanted to put pressure on this quarterback," Saints defensive end Will Smith said. "We have the line to do it and we got a couple of early sacks. We stopped the run and got pressure on the quarterback."

That plan suited the Saints quite well. They added four more sacks in the second half as the Seahawks desperately tried to get back in the ball game. Defensive tackle Brian Young and defensive end Charles Grant got their first sacks of the season and strong safety Roman Harper dropped Hasselbeck twice.

All told, the Seahawks lost 29 yards on the five sacks. Hasselbeck was also hurried into an interception and chased all night by blitzing linebackers Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle.

"We wanted to come in and try to put some pressure on the quarterback, fly around, get more different looks," Harper said of the plan that worked to perfection.

"We just rushed," Grant said. "We did a little more blitzing to free up the rush."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Drew Brees had his best game in completing 25 of 36 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. He was not sacked and did not throw an interception for the first time this year and had a passer rating of 106.9. Brees directed three straight touchdown drives for the first time this season -- going 86, 66 and 60 yards to build a 28-7 lead.

--RB Reggie Bush got off to a solid start with nine carries for 88 yards in the first half and finished with a season-high 141 total yards from scrimmage. He had 97 rushing yards on 19 attempts for a 5.1-yard average and caught six passes for 44 yards, consistently frustrating the Seahawks' defense with his speed and elusiveness.

--WR David Patten was expected to be involved in the passing game more than the first four games and he delivered. Patten posted a team-high eight receptions for 113 yards and averaged 14.1 yards a catch with a long of 36 yards. He had four catches for 67 yards on the drive that gave the Saints a 28-7 cushion in the second quarter.

--WR Marques Colston had just one catch for two yards which went for a touchdown in the Saints' win over the Seahawks. He had at least two dropped passes, his first drops of the season.

--TE Eric Johnson caught two passes for 12 yards, one a 3-yard touchdown, in the game with the Seahawks.

--FS Josh Bullocks had a team-high eight tackles and had an interception of Matt Hasselbeck in the fourth quarter. Bullocks also broke through to block a 44-yard field-goal attempt by Josh Brown in the second period.

--SS Roman Harper had two second-half sacks for 16 yards in losses and finished with six tackles against the Seahawks. He also broke up one pass.

--LCB Mike McKenzie had a solid performance with seven total tackles -- including six solos -- and broke up three passes.

--NT Hollis Thomas earned a game ball for his four-tackle, one-sack effort against the Seahawks. Thomas' sack preceded a bad punt snap that wound up giving the Saints a touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.

--WR/KR Lance Moore got his first NFL start and had three receptions for 35 yards. He also scored his first touchdown with a 7-yard run on a reverse in the second quarter.


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