Week 4 news and notes

There is a growing sense of desperation regarding the Panthers pass defense. This has now elevated into a serious problem with opposing teams dinking and dunking the Panthers with short throws over the middle, basically blowing up Carolina's Cover 2 scheme. Coverage and poor tackling are just part of the problem.

Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber said he has no plans to make Steve Smith angry.

"I've played against Steve a lot and I know one thing, that making him mad is not the right thing to do," Barber said with a laugh. "I have a lot of respect for that guy. The way he approaches the game, the way he approaches himself. I like ... his demeanor. When he is playing angry, he is very hard to deal with. So, you won't see me or any of my DBs approaching him in that manner."

Smith played angry last week and although he caught only one pass for 10 yards, he was partly responsible for turning the momentum of the game when he drew three flags worth 67 penalty yards against Atlanta's DeAngelo Hall.

"DeAngelo definitely wears his emotions on his sleeve," Barber said. "He always has, there is no doubt about that. That is part of what makes him who he is to tell you the truth.

"It surprised me that it went that far. Also, it didn't exactly surprise because he is that kind of player. He is very talented and the emotions of the game get to you sometime. I can't fault him for it, although it's probably a little unnecessary."

Still, Barber will have to do something different this week as Smith has torched the Bucs with four straight 100-yard receiving games.

--There is a growing sense of desperation regarding the Panthers pass defense.

This has now elevated into a serious problem with opposing teams dinking and dunking the Panthers with short throws over the middle, basically blowing up Carolina's Cover 2 scheme. The Panthers allowed Joey Harrington to throw for 361 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday.

Coverage and poor tackling are just part of the problem.

The Panthers are also having problems generating a pass rush. The Falcons came in having surrendered 13 sacks in the first two weeks. Carolina had just one sack, that by Kris Jenkins, as Julius Peppers was shut out for a third straight game.

"It all concerns me," Fox admitted. "We've got a lot of areas to improve at. I think our pass rush is one of them. It's something we'll work very hard on this week -- and that's not just the D-line. There's ways to bring people, bring other people than just the D-line. Like every week, we're going to be looking hard at everything, and we need to get more productive in our pass rush. And that's not just singling out our D-line, I want to make that clear."

--Fox correctly pointed out that the Panthers defense did play better in the second half.

And the red-zone defense wasn't bad. In four trips inside the Carolina 20, the Falcons came away with just one touchdown. On the flip side, Carolina's offense converted all three opportunities into touchdowns.

"We played good in the red area," Fox said. "To me, that's the difference in the game."

But if linebacker Dan Morgan is out for any significant period of time the Panthers pass defense could be in even bigger trouble. This week they go against a very efficient passer in Jeff Garcia. He comes into this game having completed 66 percent of his passes and he knows how to work the middle of the field. And you can bet that will be Tampa Bay's game plan.

--The move to acquire David Carr is looking like a great one by GM Marty Hurney.

The Panthers needed to upgrade at that position in the offseason and few figured they would have a chance to land Carr, a former No. 1 pick. At $3 million per season, the Panthers might have overpaid for a so-called "backup," but it will be worth every penny if Delhomme (strained elbow) is out any significant period of time.

"I thought he did good. We didn't change what we were doing, because, 'Oh no we're putting in our backup quarterback.' He went out there and managed the game well. I think we had one little miscue on a change of play, and we do some of that. That's no mystery to anybody, and he executed that well. He played well enough for us to win."

--The Panthers may be realizing what the Green Bay Packers realized last month -- that Marquand Manuel has slowed a step or two in the last year. Manuel started on Sunday against Tampa Bay, but the Panthers went back to Deke Cooper in the second half.

--Carr has taken to wearing gloves on both hands in practice and on game day.

It's something he picked up from watching former Chicago Bears quarterback and golfing buddy Jim McMahon. He only tried it in a game one time with the Houston Texans.

"Jim is where I saw it first. And we talked about it a couple times. I don't know if he's the greatest role model, but he's a cool dude and we get along great. I love him," Carr said. "We play golf at Lake Tahoe. He talked to me about it two or three years ago and I threw them on at practice. It worked out pretty good. And I came here and I was just like, 'I'm going to start wearing them.' (Equipment manager) Jackie Miles had an endless supply of them and I was like, well, 'I don't have to buy them. Let's throw them on.' "

Carr's teammates have begun calling him Michael Jackson because he wears two white gloves with the team's white uniforms.

--Julius Peppers doesn't seem quite right.

It's not that he's playing bad, but he's not as dominant as he has been.

Peppers didn't show the same burst he has in the past last Sunday and he was handled pretty well one-on-one by Falcons right tackle Todd Weiner. Some are wondering if the sickness that sidelined Peppers twice during training camp has affected his play in some way.

"He did lose some weight during that time, but that's what I know," Fox said. "He's gained some of it back, yeah. He hasn't lost an amount of weight that I think would affect his performance."

It's going to be hard for the Panthers to justify making Peppers the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL if he continues to put up numbers like he did on Sunday -- no tackles, no sacks and one tipped pass.

--Maybe Dan Morgan ought to stop trying to tackle Falcons running back Jerious Norwood.

Morgan injured his shoulder last Sunday in the first half while making a tackle on Norwood and left the game to get a new harness.

Morgan eventually returned and then injured his hamstring and heel while dragging down Norwood after a 26-yard gain in the second half. This time Morgan didn't return.

Now think back to last year -- it Morgan's tackle on Norwood in the season opener that put him out for the year with a fifth career concussion. James Anderson played about 25 snaps for Morgan last Sunday.

--The Panthers executed a beautiful touchdown last week against Atlanta as Delhomme tossed a 13-yard strike to DeShaun Foster. It was really a thing of beauty with Delhomme putting it right on the money and Foster making an over-the-shoulder catch on the side of the end zone while keeping both feet in bounds.

"It was a good play call," Delhomme said. "Keary Colbert did a good job of running the post and getting the safety out of there. DeShaun did a great job of going to the flat and wheeling it up. It was a good play call at the right time."


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