Smith Frustrated by Performance

Steve Smith expects the most from everyone, including himself, and when he doesn't get it he's bound to be upset. Such was the case after Sunday's 20-10 loss to the St. Louis Rams when Smith called his performance unacceptable, telling reporters that he felt he let his teammates down.

"I didn't play very well. For the few plays I messed up, it was like we were playing with 10 men on the field," Steve Smith said. "For me, I just have to do better. That was terrible.

"I just made a ton of mistakes. I'm disappointed in my performance and disappointed that I let my guys down. These guys are looking for me to make plays and I made plays for the other team. I'm not frustrated at all and I don't think they're frustrated at all. There are some guys and they probably would say it, but they looking for me to play better and I didn't."

He refused to put the blame on anyone else on offense or the coaching staff.

"When they went to me, I turned the ball over," Smith said. "Defensively, they didn't do anything that I haven't seen when they have two or three guys on me at one time.

"It has nothing to do with the defensive scheme they did, it was the lack of concentration and focus that I had at times on the field, you know I was just trying to press."

Still, up until rookie Brandon LaFell caught a touchdown pass late in the game, Smith was the only guy making plays on offense.

With running back DeAngelo Williams back in Charlotte nursing a foot injury, Jonathan Stewart was limited to 30 yards rushing. The team's No. 2 receiver, David Gettis, didn't catch a pass and the Panthers didn't get much help from the team's collection of tight ends.

Smith was targeted 15 times and finished with a team-high 85 yards on nine catches, but was upset at himself for a key fumble in the fourth quarter that led to a St. Louis touchdown. He also dropped a ball that hit him in the chest and ran some sloppy routes.

Smith called it "probably one of the worst games of my career."

Smith's biggest mistake was the fumble, which came with the Panthers trailing by seven in the fourth quarter.

After a short third-down catch in the flat, Smith tried to spin out of a tackle and pick up a first down but was stripped by safety Craig Dahl.

The Rams immediately cashed in by driving for a touchdown to go up 17-3, all but putting the game out of reach.

"I was trying to do too much," Smith said.

To be fair, Smith's great games have far outweighed his poor ones.

"I don't think you can ever predict when you're going to have a bad game," Smith said. "I'm not sure why I had a terrible game. I'm not exactly sure what contributed to it. I practiced my tail off all week. I just played terrible."


QB Matt Moore
G Newman Lowrance/Getty
--The Panthers are horrible on offense.

Just how horrible?

They're on pace to score 194 points this season, which would make George Seifert's 2001 team look like an offensive juggernaut. Despite losing what was then an NFL record 15 straight games that season, Seifert's team still managed to score 253 points during a forgettable year.

The Panthers (1-6) have been limited to 10 points or fewer in four of seven games this season and rank near the bottom of almost every major statistical category including points per game (12.1), yards per game (251.4), touchdowns (eight), turnovers (minus-8) and interceptions (13).

"Whether it be the run game or the pass game, I don't think it is one position. It's just an overall lack of execution," coach John Fox said.

Offensive tackle Jordan Gross said after Sunday's game this is the most difficult challenge he's ever been around.

"Guys practice hard and do the things you want them to do, but it's just so bad on offense," Gross said, emphasizing the word "bad." "There's no other reason we're losing besides that."

Still, Fox plans to stick with Matt Moore at quarterback this week despite the fact he's thrown 10 interceptions and fumbled twice in four starts this season.

"I think the first play he would like to have back," Fox said of Moore's first of three interceptions Sunday. "Other than that, I think he made some good throws and he did some good things. We had some other areas that broke down on some of the other interceptions, so that's what everybody looks at in a quarterback. All in all, I don't think I can pin it on him."

Regardless of the cause of the problems, it's pretty clear right now the Panthers don't have what it takes to challenge the best teams in the league.

They relied heavily on the running game last year, but it's simply not working. They've slipped to 28th in the league in that category for a variety of reasons.

"We were able to lean on the run game a year ago and in years past, but all in all, I don't think we're executing the run or the pass as well, and that's why we're struggling," Fox said.

The Panthers blew up the team this past offseason, parting ways with several well-respected veterans in the locker room, but Fox doesn't think this year's problems are due to a lack of talent.

"I have always believed we had enough talent," Fox said. "It is just a matter of executing your assignment on a particular play. I don't think you get to this league without enough talent. ... Talent is ambiguous. We have to get better. That is something the staff and players and myself and everybody will stress. The bottom line is we have to play better in order to get the result we want."

This isn't the first time a Fox team has struggled out of the gate.

In 2004, the Panthers started 1-7 but managed to win six of their final eight games to finish a respectable 7-9. They were in the playoffs until the final week of the season before losing to New Orleans in Week 17.

In fact, in Fox's eight previous seasons, the Panthers have never finished worse than 7-9, a source of pride for the 55-year-old head coach.

But at least that '04 team could score some points. The Panthers finished with 355 points.

"I don't think that it was as drastic or one-sided as far as (one side of the ball struggling)," Fox said when talking about the difference between the '04 team and this year's team. "But at the end of the day it really doesn't matter how you get there, it's just what the results are."

Fox, who is in the last year of his contract, said his contractual status hasn't affected this season.

"I don't think it matters if you have four years or one year," Fox said. "I don't care if you are player or a coach. I think the time is now, and we are all well compensated. I never worried about having a job in this league, and I'm not going to start now."

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--The Panthers tried a couple of tricks on Halloween but received no treats in return.

On their first play from scrimmage Sunday, the Panthers ran a flea-flicker they'd worked on all week in practice, but it resulted in a poorly thrown interception by Matt Moore, which he threw off his back foot. The Panthers dodged that bullet, as the defense held, and St. Louis' Josh Brown missed a 51-yard field goal.

"My hats off to (offensive coordinator) Jeff Davidson on that one because his tendency isn't to open up the playbook, and Foxy (coach John Fox) OK'd it, too," offensive tackle Jordan Gross said. "That's not something we normally do. I like the call, but (the result) was bad. It was a bad way to start."

A short while later, Davidson dug into the playbook again, running a double reverse to David Gettis, but it ended with an 11-yard loss.

--Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford completed 25 of 32 passes against the Panthers, but only two passes went for more than 20 yards. Basically, he beat the Panthers with short passes all day long, content to move the chains.

"It was a lot of little short stuff," cornerback Richard Marshall said. "It gets frustrating because you're on them, you know you're there. (Bradford) would throw it to where only the receiver can catch it, and the receivers were catching the ball, so yeah, it does get frustrating."

--A week ago, Gettis was the talk of the town with eight catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a win against San Francisco, but he was shut out Sunday.

Gettis called his day disappointing but said the Rams didn't do anything different than the 49ers did.

"No, all of the looks we got, we worked on all week, so it was nothing different," Gettis said. "We didn't execute to the best of our ability."

--Brandon LaFell caught his first NFL touchdown pass Sunday, but he wasn't in much of a mood to talk about it after the game.

"I would have rather had it last week when we won a game," LaFell said. "Right now, all I can think about is the missed opportunities we left out on the field. I can't think about my first touchdown because we didn't win the game."

--Once again, Carolina's defense spent way too much time on the field, as Fox readily pointed out.

Linebacker Jon Beason said that's something the defense can control.

"We're not forced to be on the field," Beason said. "We go out there to get three-and-outs. That's based on us. That's what we're supposed to do. Anything after that is on us. Obviously, when you're fresh, you can play faster, longer, but I love to play the game. So, I don't want to watch, I don't want to be on the sidelines standing, so I want to get out there and get off the field. That's what we're supposed to do on defense."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Matt Moore will remain the team's starting quarterback despite a rating of around 55 and the fact he's turned the ball over 10 times in his four starts.

--RB DeAngelo Williams walked through the locker room Monday with a limp but offered no update on when he'll play. Williams missed Sunday's game with a sprained foot.

--RB Jonathan Stewart was limited to 30 yards on 14 carries by the Rams, marking the first time the Panthers have lost a game when Stewart has run the ball more than 14 times. He could start again this week at New Orleans.

--FB Tony Fiammetta still isn't opening up enough holes for Carolina's backs.

--WR Steve Smith has now fumbled in back-to-back games and is coming off one of his worst games, he said.

--WR David Gettis was shut out by the Rams one week after his 125-yard, two-touchdown performance against the 49ers. Gettis is expected to remain in the starting lineup.

--WR Brandon LaFell caught his first TD pass last week.

--TE Dante Rosario is coming up with some good catches on third downs. He's also developed a penchant for trying to hurdle opposing players.

--DE Everette Brown, whom the Panthers gave a up their first-round draft pick in 2010 to get, has not registered a sack.

--LB Jon Beason said one of the reasons he hasn't has as many big plays is because teams are running right at him this year, which doesn't allow him to trail plays and make plays from behind.

--LB Thomas Davis remains on the PUP list, but still hopes to return Nov. 14.

--LB James Anderson had a sack on Sunday and continues to lead the team in tackles.

--DT Nick Hayden got the start this past week over Ed Johnson, but failed to register a tackle.

--CB Chris Gamble has yet to get a pick this year despite a contract that is paying him more than $6 million annually.

--PR Captain Munnerlyn was back returning punts in the second half against the Rams after Steve Smith got a little worn down.

--K John Kasay is 9 of 10 on field-goal attempts with his only miss coming from 51 yards.

--KR Mike Goodson struggled on kickoff returns Sunday limited to less than 22 yards per return.

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