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NFL Spotlight

Panthers Look to Pounce Back

September 18, 2006|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

It wasn't that long ago that the Carolina Panthers were the trendy pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. It was two weeks ago to be exact.

A season after they advanced to the NFC championship game, it seemed like a safe pick, but after a 0-2 start, the Panthers are looking more like this year's Super Bust.

The Panthers started the season with a streak of nearly six quarters without a touchdown and have scored only 19 points in two games.

Sunday, a week after giving up 385 yards against the Atlanta Falcons, they gave up 365 in a 16-13 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Last year, the Panthers were third in the NFL in total defense, giving up only 282.6 yards a game.

"It's disappointing, but nobody feels sorry for us," quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "You have to go back to work and try to get better."

In the last three seasons, only the 2003 Philadelphia Eagles have made the playoffs after a 0-2 start, but that doesn't mean there is no hope for the Panthers.

The 1993 Dallas Cowboys and 2001 New England Patriots won Super Bowls after 0-2 starts. The 1996 Patriots are the only other team that has advanced to the Super Bowl after a 0-2 start.

"You can only go up," Panthers linebacker Adam Seward said. "There are 14 games left. I think we'll be fine. We just have to keep improving every week, keep bringing the intensity and keep working hard, and I think things will go our way."

The Panthers are scrambling to overcome several key injuries, most notably the one to receiver Steve Smith's hamstring. Smith led the NFL with 1,563 yards receiving last season but has yet to play this year.

Offensive tackle Travelle Wharton is out for the season because of a knee injury, and center Justin Hartwig sat out Sunday's game because of a groin problem, forcing the Panthers to shuffle linemen.

The Panthers have started 0-2 three other times since joining the league 11 years ago. In 1995, they finished 7-9; in 1998, they finished 4-12; in 1999, they finished 8-8.

In 2001, the Panthers were 1-15, but they won their first game.

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Still Not Impressed

Roy Williams didn't really think the Detroit Lions would beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday, did he?

Sure, he guaranteed it, but that's worth about as much as Enron stock, especially after Chicago shellacked Detroit, 34-7.

But despite the lopsided score, Williams said he was not impressed.

"They did nothing special," he said.

The Bears are sure to tuck that one away in the file for bulletin-board material before their Dec. 24 rematch.

Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris dismissed Williams' guarantee, saying, "A lot of talk comes from a lack of confidence in what you can do.... My rookie year here, we used to talk a lot and we weren't that good."

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The Must-Haves

Defenses you want in fantasy football: Baltimore, Atlanta and Denver. Through two weeks, the Ravens, Falcons and Broncos have not given up a touchdown.

The Chargers, coming off a shutout of Oakland on Sept. 11, came within 3 minutes 9 seconds of joining the no-touchdowns-surrendered club, but Vince Young completed an 18-yard touchdown pass play to Drew Bennett, and the Chargers won, 40-7.

The Chargers have never had consecutive shutouts.

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The Must-Not Haves

Offenses you want nothing to do with in fantasy football: Oakland and Tampa Bay.

The Raiders and Buccaneers have yet to score a touchdown.

Sunday, a Raider did find his way into the end zone for a score, but it was the wrong end zone and the points went to the other team. Quarterback Andrew Walter was sacked for a safety.

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And Just to Be Safe

It might be wise to stay away from the normally reliable Buccaneers defense too.

In a 14-3 loss Sunday to Atlanta, Tampa Bay gave up 382 yards as the Falcons set a team rushing record with 306 yards. It was a Buccaneers record for rushing yards given up.

It was a far cry from the team that ranked sixth in the league in rushing defense last year, when it gave up only 94.7 yards a game.

"All I can say is that we will take a good look at it and go from there. We are going to do everything we can to remedy this situation," Coach Jon Gruden said.

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Son Knows Best

Second-year San Francisco 49ers Coach Mike Nolan improved to 3-0 against the St. Louis Rams after Sunday's 20-13 victory. His father, Dick, was 2-13-1 against the Los Angeles Rams while coaching the 49ers from 1968 to 1975.

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peter.yoon@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Catching up

Indianapolis receiver Marvin Harrison caught seven passes Sunday to move into fifth place on the all-time NFL receptions chart. He also overtook Jerry Rice for most receptions by a player in his first 11 seasons. Rice played 20 seasons and ended with 1,549 catches:

All-time reception leaders:

*--* Rk. Player No. 1. Jerry Rice 1,549 2. Cris Carter 1,101 3. Tim Brown 1,094 4. Andre Reed 951 5. MARVIN HARRISON 943* 6. Art Monk 940

*--*

Most receptions in a player's first 11 seasons:

*--* Rk. Player No. 1. MARVIN HARRISON 943* 2. Jerry Rice 942 3. Rod Smith 797* 4. Jimmy Smith 792 5. Isaac Bruce 777*

*--*

* Player active

Source: NFLmedia.com

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