Questions surround Panthers heading into MNF

The Carolina Panthers may be 9-3, but questions persist about this team heading into Monday's night's critical game against Tampa Bay.

Over the past three weeks, the Panthers have surrendered an average of 30.3 points per game, and that's excluding the punt return the special teams allowed for a touchdown two weeks ago against Atlanta.

That's a dramatic change from earlier in the season, where the Panthers were stellar on defense and ranked No. 2 in the league allowing just 18.7 points per game.

"Yeah, it's been frustrating," safety Chris Harris said. "It's something we need to correct. Playing in December, giving up 31 points is going to get you beat.

"So it's something we're definitely focusing on this week. We've got to get that total down, and we've got to get back to playing like we were playing the first eight weeks of the season."

But just how can the Panthers fix it in time for the stretch run?

"We've just got to go back and refocus and revisit the little things we were doing right that we aren't doing now," Harris said.

Said linebacker Jon Beason: "Well, we're going back and watching the film, and we're making a lot of mistakes, things we didn't do the beginning of the season. Just got to go out and communicate more, just focus a little more on small attention-to-detail things and we'll be fine."

When peppered with questions from reporters at Monday's press conference, coach John Fox downplayed any issues with his defense, reminding everyone the Panthers are good enough to be 9-3.

"Again, I think people want to throw it 49 or 50 times a game, it can look more like that," Fox said. "A few of those situations were like that. I just look at (if) we score more than they score. I don't look at yards. I wish (Green Bay) wouldn't have scored quite as many. Our first half was better than our second half defensively, but they adjusted. They threw it a lot more in that second half, it just ended up not being enough."

Of course, yards don't address the whole problem in Carolina.

The 91 points surrendered over the past three weeks suggest Carolina's defense is headed in the wrong direction.

When asked about the rash of points allowed by his defense, Fox bristled, "I don't know where you're really going with this, but all I'd say is we're in the top third in the league in defense. We're 9-3 and it's a team game. Yards don't win games, points do. I hope that answered all your questions in one."

Prior to last week, the primary questions surrounded the team's struggles stopping the run. The Panthers have allowed at least 135 rushing yards in four straight games.

But on Sunday the pass defense sprung a leak, allowing Aaron Rodgers threw for 298 yards and three scores. So now there are further questions about the linebackers and the secondary entering Monday night's crucial game against Tampa Bay.

The Panthers know it will take another total team effort to beat Tampa Bay, which has scored 92 points during their current four-game win streak.

"The good thing is the effort's there," Beason said. "The offense bailed us out of some games this year, and we've got them too. Good thing our special teams has come along, because it's really helping us."

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