Panthers Offense Takes Baby Steps

Baby steps; that's what it is all about right now for the Carolina Panthers, who actually saw a little bit of improvement from their offense in Sunday's 31-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The New Orleans Saints they're not, but the Panthers have set the bar so low on offense that Sunday's 300-yard, 21-first down performance gives at least a little reason for optimism.

Despite falling to 0-4 as a starter, rookie Jimmy Clausen completed 16 of 29 passes for 191 yards. He didn't throw any interceptions or fumble (although he took two sacks), which is a step in the right direction.

"Yeah definitely, I felt really comfortable out there," Clausen said. "I think that's the biggest thing. Every time you step your foot on the field, everything is going to get a little bit easier, hopefully. For the most part, it did show today. I tried to get in a rhythm, with a quick game early, screens and just trying to make plays down the field when they were there and if not check the ball down."

Mike Goodson, the team's fourth-string running back, rushed for 100 yards on 23 carries, becoming the first Carolina tailback to reach the century mark.


DT Andre Neblett
J. Meric/Getty
The second-youngest team in the NFL, the Panthers are hoping to take a page from the Bucs, who started the 2009 season 1-12 only to bounce back and put themselves in the playoff hunt at 6-3 this year.

"I hope I'm around here long enough to see the fruits of this season," said Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross. "There are so many young guys getting a ton of experience that they wouldn't get on a lot of other teams and I think it's going to pay off. Maybe it's the end of this year or next year, but eventually we will have a young team with a lot of experience."

"I think the best way to put it is, the guys in that locker room are battling in a tough situation," said coach John Fox.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

LINEUP WATCH: The Panthers always felt good about their depth at running back and Sunday helped cement that notion. Except for one play, running back Mike Goodson's starting debut with the Carolina Panthers was a success.

Goodson carried 23 times for 100 yards, becoming the first Panthers running back to eclipse 100 yards this season in a 31-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. But his fumble on the game's opening possession led to a Tampa Bay touchdown putting the Panthers in a 7-0 hole.

There's a good chance Goodson's playing time might be short-lived if Jonathan Stewart or DeAngelo Williams can make it back from an injuries in time for next Sunday's game against Baltimore. Both players sat out on Sunday against the Bucs.

TRENDING: The Panthers finally scored a touchdown off a turnover Sunday, something they've not been able to do all season. The Panthers had forced 15 turnovers coming into the game but had only cashed in with three field goals. Josh Vaughan's touchdown run ended that eight-game streak.

On the flip side, the Panthers have given the ball away 26 times and opponents have scored 70 points.

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Brandon LaFell left Sunday's game because of a head injury. LaFell was the team's No. 3 receiver and had a decent first half. He was replaced by David Clowney.

--LG Travelle Wharton left Sunday's game with a foot injury. He said it's not broken but he had trouble pushing off and will undergo more medical tests on Monday.

--Mackenzy Bernadeau replaced Travelle Wharton at left guard.

--RB DeAngelo Williams did not play Sunday because of a sprained foot.

--RB Jonathan Stewart did not play Sunday because of a concussion.

--RB Mike Goodson got his first NFL start and became the first Carolina back this season to rush for 100 yards.

--LB Jon Beason was part of a defense that allowed 421 yards on Sunday to the Bucs.

--QB Jimmy Clausen is now 0-4 as the team's starting quarterback.



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