So Far, Panthers More Lucky Than Good

The Carolina Panthers admit they haven't been playing that well to this point, but they have gotten lucky with an easy schedule. They will try to improve their own play by reviving some semblance of a running game. Get the in-depth report, complete with player personnel news and notes, from Carolina.

The Carolina Panthers are 4-2 coming off a bye week, and for that they feel pretty thankful.

Maybe even lucky.

The Carolina players, almost to a man, say they haven't come close to putting together a good game in all three phases. And yet, they have still managed to win four games, including three in a row and the last two on the road.

It helps, perhaps, that the Panthers have had a pretty easy schedule thus far — none of their previous six opponents have a winning record at this stage of the season and four of them have two wins or fewer.

"It's crazy that you still have a chance and you haven't played the kind of ball that you're used to," said defensive end Mike Rucker. "Being 4-2, we're fortunate. We've been in some dogfights.

"Having the positive momentum of knowing that our best hasn't been out there is something we need to strive for. That's the hardest thing to hit on all cylinders for 16 straight weeks. Hopefully this is the week it happens."

The number one problem the Panthers need to fix entering Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings is establishing a running game.

Stephen Davis has scored seven touchdowns this season, but is averaging a career-low 3.1 yards per carry. DeShaun Foster is better at 4.5 yards per carry and he should be back on the field this week after missing one game with a knee injury.

This would be the ideal week for the Panthers to get things turned around.

They face a Vikings defense that is 30th in the league against the run, allowing 142 yards per game on the ground and 4.6 yards per carry.

"Right now the only thing I care about is winning," Davis said.

Carolina's offense has been fairly one-dimensional, focused around Steve Smith, who is in the midst of an incredible season with 39 catches for 596 yards and seven touchdowns.

"He's a special player," said quarterback Jake Delhomme, who will be back under center come Sunday.

Delhomme said he doesn't anticipate any hangover from the hit he took two weeks ago against the Lions that sent him out of the game for the final drive. His big goal will be to cut down on his interceptions.

Delhomme has thrown eight picks this season, three of which have been returned for touchdowns.

"Four and two is a good start, but I think we can play better," Delhomme said. "I think I need to play better and we all need to play better. We're 4-2 and there is a lot of room for improvement. That's the exciting thing. We haven't really hit our stride yet. It's easy to say. You have to go out and do it. The last couple of years we have improved offensively as the season went on, so hopefully we can do it again."


Carolina Panthers cornerback Ken Lucas was stunned when he heard the news that former Seattle Seahawks teammate and friend Ken Hamlin was beaten outside a Seattle nightclub following the Seahawks' Week 6 victory.

The two played together in Seattle and Lucas considers Hamlin a close friend.

Hamlin sustained a fractured skull, a blood clot on the brain and a fractured hand after getting into a fistfight outside.

"You have to be careful as a player when you go out because there a lot of envious people out there," Lucas said. "You have to make good decisions when you go out on the town."

Lucas said the Seahawks will miss Hamlin on the field.

"It's unfortunate for the team because if he's not able to play for the rest of the year then that is going to be a big loss for the team," Lucas said. "I just hope everything is OK as far as health goes. I know football is important to him, but I just hope his health is OK."

Lucas said he plans to call Hamlin now that he has been released from the hospital and things begin to settle down.

  • Jordan Gross has made a nice transition back to right tackle from left tackle in the off-season. So far, Gross has not allowed a sack and been called for only one penalty. A year ago, Gross allowed seven sacks at left tackle.

    Still, quarterback Jake Delhomme believes Gross can play both positions effectively.

    "I think a lot was made of the fact that he moved around, but he was able to settle down with Travelle (Wharton) from the middle part of the season on," Delhomme said. "I think Jordan can play as well at left tackle as he can at right tackle. He's a solid player who knows what he's doing and he comes to work every day."

  • It's unclear how Dan Morgan's shoulder will hold up on Sunday, so the Vikings could see more of Vinny Ciurciu this week at middle linebacker. Morgan dislocated his left shoulder against the Lions on Oct. 16 and will play the rest of the season with a harness on. This is the same injury that forced him to go on injured reserve late in 2002 and have surgery. Surgery could still be an option for Morgan if the shoulder doesn't hold up to the pounding. Outside of that, the harness will limit how far he can extend his left arm. That means he may not be able to make as many arm tackles and could have problems against physical backs.

  • RB DeShaun Foster was back on the field Wednesday and looked good during practice. He should see some playing time on Sunday as long as he doesn't aggravate his knee.

  • QB Jake Delhomme is showing no signs of a head injury nearly two weeks ago against the Lions. Delhomme has continued to practice and will start against the Vikings.

  • CB Chris Gamble appears to have overcome an ankle injury and is now close to 100 percent.

  • DE Julius Peppers could have his productivity limited because he will play Sunday with a cast on his broken right hand.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 7 - Number of touchdown receptions by Steve Smith, the most in the league.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "There were a couple of throws I'd like to have back. Other than that, we did some good things. It's just that we gave them some opportunities. That's the frustrating part. On the flip side, we're 4-2, so that's a positive thing. But we can get better. There are things we need to work on and improve on." --Panthers QB Jake Delhomme on his two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns by the Detroit Lions in his most recent start on Oct. 16.

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