Panthers improve on third downs

At this time last week, the Panthers were lamenting their poor execution after going 0-for-11 on third-down conversions in a close win against the Browns. But on Sunday, the Panthers found a cure to their third-down woes, doing so against one of the league's top-ranked defenses.

The Panthers converted seven of 15 third downs, including a crucial third-and-1 in the final two minutes that allowed them to run out the clock and hold on to beat the Ravens 23-21 at M&T Bank Stadium.

The final first down came on a risky play in which Jake Delhomme rolled out and fired a quick out to Drew Carter, who had to stretch his body and make a diving catch to secure Carolina's win.

"It was kind of an uproar last week about our lack of success on third downs," Carter said. "But we kind of do the same thing in practice every week. Sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you aren't. This week we worked real hard on it and we definitely came through."

Fox said it was just a matter of persistence.

"It's kind of like turnovers," Fox said. "We talked about (a lack of) turnovers early in the season, and then we've had two weeks where we've had three takeaways the last two weeks. Third downs are much the same way. This game is always changing, and there was no panic on the coaching staff's part. We had an opportunity this past week against Cleveland and we didn't capitalize. On Sunday, we capitalized."

Fox said the Panthers didn't put in any new plays just for third down.

"Not really," he said. "Each week we draw a different game plan from our notebook, but that's just typical of the different teams you face as you move through the season."

As for the decision to throw to Carter with the game on the line, Fox admitted it was a bit of a gamble.

"Part of us wanted to run the ball from a clock-management standpoint, but that first down was key, too," Fox said. "On earlier downs they had committed quite a few guys to the running game, and I thought it was an outstanding job of protection, a great job by Jake, and it was an excellent catch by Drew Carter. This game is about players making plays, and our players made plays (on Sunday)."

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