Titans pummel Panthers

After getting sacked seven times and hurried 12 other times in Sunday's 20-7 loss to the Tennessee Titans, David Carr was asked how the Carolina Panthers go about fixing their offense. "Don't play these guys every week," Carr said referring to the Titans, who came into the game ranked fifth in the league in defense.

For the first time all day, Carr was on target.

Without Jake Delhomme (injured reserve) at quarterback, the Panthers can't compete with the Titans. Or the Steelers. Or the Ravens. Or the Colts. Or the Patriots, or any of the other top 10 defenses in the league.

What they can do is compete against teams like this Sunday's opponent -- the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons rank 23rd in the league in defense, so it's conceivable the Panthers might reach double digits in points for the first time in four weeks.

There will be a good portion of Carolina fans that will pin the blame this week on Carr -- and deservedly so.

He looks scared in the pocket and seems to be struggling with reading defenses. Nor does he seem to inspire a lot of confidence in his offensive teammates.

It almost seems a foregone conclusion that when Vinny Testaverde (strained Achilles) is ready to play, he should be the starting quarterback.

But Carr is not the only problem.

The offensive line the Panthers worked so diligently to improve isn't one that will dominate an opponent by blowing them off the line of scrimmage. And Carolina's running backs are good, but they don't have a LaDainian Tomlinson, a guy who scares the heck out of defenses.

The Panthers do have a great receiver in Steve Smith, but unfortunately they have only one.

And Carr can't get him the ball because defenses have figured out if you roll a safety over to Smith's side every play you're going to shut him down. In 14 quarters running the Carolina offense, Carr has completed 13 passes to the Smith, a three-time Pro Bowler.

"I don't think it's fair to blame everything on David," said fullback Brad Hoover. "I don't think David deserves a lot of criticism. I think we as an offense deserve the criticism. We're all involved. It has nothing to do with one player. It can be turned and looked at however you want to look at it -- and it will. I'm sure it will as a matter of fact. But offensively we're one group."

The bottom line is the Panthers are still not good enough to compete with the league's best defenses.

And that's where the good news comes in.

If there's one positive for the Carolina offense moving forward it's this -- they don't face another top-10 defense until the Dallas Cowboys roll into town in Week 16.

"It had to be discouraging for the defense, I know," said Smith, who had three catches for 15 yards against Tennessee. "They played well and kept giving us opportunities and we never capitalized. That's unfair to the defense."

Added offensive tackle Jordan Gross: "We knew if we were going to win the game we had to keep David on his feet and he got hit a bunch. That was probably our worst game protection wise."

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