After five weeks of praise, Carolina Panthers coach John Fox has come under fire for a questionable coaching decision on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. With Carolina trailing 20-3 near the end of the first half, the Panthers seemed to stop the Titans at the 12-yard line to force a Gary Anderson field-goal attempt. Instead, Fox accepted a holding penalty on the Titans and moved them back 10 yards, giving Titans QB Steve McNair, the NFL's top-rated and hottest quarterback, another shot at the end zone.
As fate would have it, McNair made the Panthers pay by connecting with a wide open Drew Bennett in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown.
Now, instead of it being a three-possession game heading into halftime, it was a four-possession game.
"At that point we needed to try to get them out of field-goal range," Fox said. "That was the plan. I don't think that was the difference in the game."
Cornerback Reggie Howard, who played too shallow on McNair's perfect touchdown throw, said he doesn't question Fox's decision for taking the gamble and instead said the defense was to blame.
"He was trying to put them in a situation where we could back them up and keep them from kicking a field goal," Howard said. "It's up to us as players to make those plays. Whatever decision he makes, we're with him. It was a situation where we as a defense let him down."
Down 24 at the half, the Panthers had no choice but to abandon the running game in the second half.