QB Shuffle, Offensive Struggles Continue

QB Jimmy Clausen (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

It's been a strange rookie season for quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Five games into his NFL career, Clausen not only knows what it's like to replace a guy who's been benched but now also knows what it's like to get benched.

Coach John Fox yanked Jimmy Clausen late in the fourth quarter with the Panthers losing 20-6 Sunday and replaced him with Matt Moore in hopes of a spark.

It didn't work as Moore threw two interceptions in the closing minutes.

Fox said after the game it's too early to know who'll start when the Panthers return from the bye week to face the San Francisco 49ers, although it's hard to imagine them benching Clausen for good at this point and stunting his development. The Panthers want him to develop alongside the rookie receivers.

"Obviously you don't want to get pulled. You want to go out there and try to win the game," Clausen said. "That was a coaches' decision and I'm all for what the coaches decide."

Clausen said he won't let it affect his confidence and that he'll get better with time.

"I think it's a matter of time," he said. "You are not going to go from a rookie quarterback to All-Pro quarterback in one week or a few games or a season. It's a progression you have to go through. I'm trying to just excel at that as much as I can, as fast as I can for myself to give this team an opportunity to win games."

The Panthers were so bad offensively that even on a day when the 38-year-old Todd Collins was intercepted four times, they still could only muster six points and eight first downs.

"To say we're struggling would be putting it mildly," coach John Fox said of his offense. "We have some youthful guys in there. We just have to get better, and we have to get better fast."

With wide receiver Steve Smith out with a high ankle sprain, the Panthers became the first team since the Cleveland Browns in 1999 to start a rookie quarterback (Clausen) and two rookie receivers (Brandon LaFell and David Gettis).

As you might imagine, that didn't work out so well against a stingy Chicago defense led by a surprisingly flamboyant Julius Peppers, who had four tackles, a quarterback pressure and an interception on Sunday.

NOTES, QUOTES

LINEUP WATCH: Jordan Pugh made his first NFL start in place of Sherrod Martin, who was out with a concussion, and played a solid game, even recording his first NFL interception.

Still, when Martin returns he will be the starter, but the Panthers have to have confidence in the young Pugh.

TRENDING: Rookie receiver Brandon LaFell wasn't happy with his play once again on Sunday.

LaFell was targeted eight times -- more than any player on the field -- and caught just one pass for 16 yards.

"It's real frustrating to me to go out there and play the way that I did," LaFell said. "I had a couple of penalties and I dropped two passes. It's real frustrating just not as an overall team, but just as a personal point with me. I know I'm better than that."

PLAYER NOTES

--DT Derek Landri and the Panthers' defense allowed RB Matt Forte to rush for a career-high 166 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday.

--FS Charles Godfrey had one of four picks of Todd Collins on Sunday. Godfrey now has four picks for the season.

--RB DeAngelo Williams was a non-factor on Sunday with 51 yards on 12 carries.

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