Inside slant: Carolina Panther Week 8 review

Here's the "Inside Slant," your twice-weekly source for news about the Bucs' NFC South rivals. Today's edition wraps up Week 8's games, including personnel news and exclusive unit grades for the Carolina Panthers, who lost to Indianapolis. It's a premium service from Bucsblitz.com.

In what must seem like a recurring nightmare to coach John Fox, the Carolina Panthers enter yet another workweek unsure of who will play quarterback come game day.

The Panthers visit the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at LP Field.

The good news is David Carr, who said his back is about 80 percent, didn't suffer any setbacks after playing one half against Indianapolis. But 21-year veteran Vinny Testaverde, who led Carolina to its only touchdown drive in a 31-7 loss to the Colts, has his right foot in a walking boot, attempting to recover from Achilles tendinitis.

Fox said he would not have any updates on the team's quarterback situation until at least Wednesday when he sees who's available for practice.

Chances are Carr will practice, Testaverde won't.

Despite having to play musical quarterbacks this season, Fox is trying to stay positive.

"This is that hand we're dealt, and so we just do our best to get the guys ready," Fox said. "Whether it's been Jake (Delhomme), whether it's been Vinny or even David Carr, it's just being able to stay healthy. You prefer to stay healthy because it builds continuity. A lot of teams in this league deal with it. We've got to be one to deal with it also."

Testaverde started Sunday and led the Panthers on an 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the game. But things went downhill from there. He threw an interception in the end zone in the second quarter and was forced to leave the game at halftime after his Achilles became too painful.

"There was a play where I had to step up real hard in the pocket just to push off," Testaverde said. "Stretching the tendon there is what aggravated it more. As that second quarter went on, it just got tighter and tighter to the point where I couldn't push off anymore."

Testaverde, who injured his left Achilles tendon in 1999, said the right one has given him some problems in the past, but it hadn't resurfaced until after the Arizona game.

In leading Carolina to a 25-10 win, he took a hit to the calf and developed a knot on his leg. When the blood drained down, his Achilles became inflamed, forcing him to ice it most of last week.

When asked if there's a chance he could play this week, Testaverde replied, "With this, there's no telling. I've been dealing with it for however long it's been since the Cardinals game.

"Some days you wake up, it feels great. Some days you wake up and it's not so great. It's kind of day-to-day, and hopefully we'll treat it the next couple of days and continue to go in that direction."

Testaverde will spend a good bit of time with the training staff this week.

As will Carr.

Carr continues to receive treatment on his back but said he's getting better.

"I don't think it will be a season-long thing at all because the way I feel today is so much better than the way I felt just a week ago," Carr said Monday. "And I played half of a game. So that's encouraging. It's not like I woke up this morning and I was back to square one."

Unlike last week when he said Carr would play if healthy, Fox wasn't making any similar promises Monday.

NOTES, QUOTES

--QB David Carr spent several minutes talking privately with WR Steve Smith at his locker following Sunday's game as reporters looked on.

Smith was upset, Carr said, over his lack of involvement in the team's passing game in Carolina's 31-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Bank of America Stadium.

Smith had 18 yards on two receptions -- none from Carr, who played the entire second half in place of the injured Vinny Testaverde.

"He's frustrated because he didn't have a catch after the first (quarter)," Carr said, "That's tough, you know, but other teams know he's out there, too. We've got to find a way to make plays.

"But at the same time, trust me when I tell you he's the first read in every progression for me. It's just, he's the first read in the defense's progression, too. (Colts safety) Bob Sanders is over the top of him, and he has a corner pushing him off the ball. You don't have too much time back there to make up your mind to get him the ball when there's a guy standing in front of you that can catch it and move on. We were down too much."

Smith did not address the media after the game.

However, television replays showed him pretty fired up on the sideline during the second half of Sunday's game. In their conversation in the locker room, it appeared Smith did most of the talking.

"I just went up to him and said if there's anything I can do that you see from a wide receiver position, that can make us a better team, then let me know," Carr said. "We've just got to talk, because we're too old to keep secrets from each other. And he's not like that at all. He'll tell you straight up. And that's why I respect him and we have these types of conversations."

--Clearly, Carr has not been on the same page with Smith since his arrival in Carolina.

Carr said he was forced to throw short and over the middle because that's all the Colts were giving him in the second half.

"It's a defense that when they get up two, three scores, they give up the zone, they give up the middle of the field 10 yards in front of you, as a quarterback, you find it hard not to just take it, because there aren't many gimmes in football when you're playing out there," Carr said. "They doubled Steve and played over the top on him and ran a middle linebacker to him, and there's just literally nothing down the field.

"So you take something over the middle and try to get something positive but eventually the clock runs out."

--TE Jeff King had a career-high 10 catches Sunday, but he wasn't ready to declare himself the next Antonio Gates.

"My role changes by the week," King said. "It depends on the protection and what we have to do blocking wise.

"I hope I'm a guy they can be versatile with, blocking and catching. I think that's my role. I'm not going to say I'm just a blocker or just a pass catcher because my role entails both."

--Colts S Bob Sanders said his team's mission was to force the Panthers to throw.

"We tried to make them one-dimensional," Sanders said. "We found out Vinny was playing at the end of the week, and we just had to do what we do. I think for the most part we were able to control the running game. They came and did some excellent things in the first half, and we had to adjust."

--DT Kris Jenkins was a little disappointed with his team's effort Sunday, but he didn't question his team's heart as he had the last time the Panthers were blown out at home.

"No game is a 30-minute game. It's a 60-minute game, and if we could have held that up for 60 minutes, I think that would have been a real good thing for us," Jenkins said. "Unfortunately we didn't, and they did some good things. When you are playing a team of that caliber, you can't afford to make mistakes like that and not expect them to exploit that. They did a good job of scouting us as a defense, and when we made mistakes, they took advantage of that. When you have a Pro Bowl quarterback like that, he is going to do that, so we have to do what we can to get it together."

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--RB DeShaun Foster was 23-2 when he carried more than 15 times in a game. But that magic failed to work for the Panthers on Sunday, as they were blown out despite Foster getting 19 carries.

--CB Curtis Deloatch is done for the season after tearing his ACL against the Colts.

--SS Chris Harris has three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in seven games for the Panthers.

REPORT CARD VS. COLTS

PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Clearly, there is no chemistry between QB David Carr and WR Steve Smith. Carr didn't complete a single pass to Smith in the second half as the Colts played a soft Cover-2 focused on smothering Smith. That forced Carr to throw underneath to his tight ends and backs. Carr simply does not look comfortable running this offense. Perhaps he was having flashbacks to those days ago in Houston -- or maybe he's just not that good. Carr finished 16 of 23 for 103 yards but didn't throw much down the field. QB Vinny Testaverde was 12 of 20 for 82 yards with one costly red-zone interception. Testaverde was removed from the game at halftime with Achilles tendinitis. It's unclear how long he'll be out.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- The Panthers looked good running the football on the opening drive, but they didn't do much beyond that. They were forced into throwing most of the second half after falling behind. Carolina felt as if it could wear down Indianapolis, which was coming off a short week, but finished the game with 108 yards on 33 carries. RB DeShaun Foster got his 19 carries but was held to just 62 yards (3.3 yards per catch). After a career-high 121 yards against Arizona two weeks ago, RB DeAngelo Williams had 14 yards on five carries.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- All-World QB Peyton Manning completed 14 of 30 passes for 254 yards with two touchdown passes, including a 59-yarder to WR Reggie Wayne on a busted coverage. So what if the Colts didn't have Marvin Harrison? Wayne was a one-man show, finishing the game with 168 yards receiving on seven catches -- most of them coming against CB Ken Lucas. Manning was pressured a little early in the game, but the Colts adjusted and Carolina's defense seemed to lose momentum as the game progressed. After being held to just 5-of-14 passing for 88 yards in the first half, Manning went 9-for-16 for 166 yards with two touchdowns in the second half. Another lost afternoon for Panthers DE Julius Peppers.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Colts RB Joseph Addai ran for 100 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns -- two on the ground. The Colts finished the game with 131 rushing yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Carolina played well early on but struggled once the Colts got the lead. Indianapolis had 92 yards rushing in the second half. The Panthers couldn't stop the running game in the fourth quarter when they knew the Colts were going to run every down.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- PR Ryne Robinson's botched return turned the momentum early in the game and gave the Colts three points. K John Kasay's kickoff that sailed out of bounds to open the second half gave the Colts great field goal position and led to a quick Colts touchdown as they took command of the game. RB DeAngelo Williams is looking very shaky on kickoff returns these days.

COACHING: C-minus -- As coach John Fox said, "It looked like a football game in the first half, but not in the second half." The Panthers were competitive early, but the Colts seemed to make better adjustments at halftime and overwhelmed Carolina. Sure, the Colts are playing a Cover-2, but the Panthers simply have to find ways to get the ball to Smith. Two catches for 18 yards is simply ridiculous for a player of his talent level. Carolina had three turnovers, and a team can't do that against the Colts and expect to be competitive.


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