Humbled at Home

The QBs kept changing but the results remained the same. The Carolina Panthers mustered less than 200 total net yards, turned the ball over twice and gave up four sacks in dropping a 34-3 contest to their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints.

The Panthers had some excuses for their worst offensive performance in an utterly offensive season. Injuries played a role, with Matt Moore going down in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. Two of the team's three active RBs, Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton, also left the game with injuries.

But after the game, Coach John Fox wasn't hearing any of it.

"It's always next man up," he said. "That's how I've always looked at it."

What Fox is looking at now is one of the league's most inept units. Things went from bad to worse when Jimmy Clausen stepped in, as Carolina's top pick in this year's draft completed just 8-of-18 passes for 47 yards.

QB Jimmy Clausen
Streeter Lecka/Getty
Late in the third quarter, Clausen threw a pick-six to CB Jabari Greer. On the ensuing series, he threw two incomplete passes before absorbing a sack on third down, prompting Fox to make a change and give Tony Pike his first game action.

"I think the chances of a comeback where pretty much over by that point," Fox admitted after.

Pike finished with as many yards as Clausen and needed six fewer attempts to do it. But to be fair, the Saints were already thinking about the plane ride home by the time Pike entered.

All told, the Panthers averaged 3.0 yards per offensive play and converted just one of 12 third-down opportunities.

The defense, as has been the case all season, was undercut by the offensive ineptitude. The Saints held nearly a 10-minute edge in time of possession and outscored the Panthers 27-0 over the final three quarters.

Richard Marshall posted his second pick in the last three games and Nic Harris was in on his first sack since joining the Panthers in the offseason, but their personal achievements were lost in a full-on pummeling.

The Saints offense topped the 400-yard mark and converted 50 percent of its third-down tries. Drew Brees completed 27-of-43 passes (63 percent) for 253 yards and two scores against a pass defense that entered the game ranked No. 4 in the NFL.

Carolina was penalized 10 times in a game that proved the only lofty ranking this team deserves is the No. 1 spot in the 2011 NFL Draft order.

Where do the Panthers go from here? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and also a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.

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