The Carolina Panthers knew their first loss of the season would come eventually. Now they just have to figure out how to bounce back from it.
The Panthers look to start another winning streak as they face the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.
Carolina lost 37-17 to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, snapping a seven-game winning streak dating to last season. Heading into the game, the Panthers’ 9-1 record over the previous 10 games had been the best in the NFL.
However, the Panthers hardly expected to go 16-0 this season.
“We lost one game. It’s in the bank now,” cornerback Terry Cousin said. “We were going to lose one game, unless we were so special as to be like the (1972 Miami) Dolphins.”
In the loss to Tennessee, the Panthers trailed 20-0 just 2 1/2 minutes into the second quarter. They fumbled the opening kickoff, leading to a touchdown, and allowed another score on a fake punt.
The early deficit forced Carolina, which was undefeated thanks greatly to a dominating ground game averaging 172 yards, to turn to the air.
“We elected to open it some, and we did make some big plays,” coach John Fox said. “I’m not sure that would be the offense of choice, though.”
Stephen Davis, who started the season with four-straight 100-yard performances, was held to 20 yards on 11 carries. He remains one 100-yard game shy of the single-season Carolina record, set by Anthony Johnson in 1996.
Altogether, the Panthers gained just 44 yards on the ground. However, Fox denied that the Titans had exposed a weakness in Carolina’s game plan.
“There was no magic,” he said. ” … We ran it far fewer times. The score is what took us out of the game plan. It was 27-3 at the half, and most of our running is done in the second half.
“No team is built to come from 27-3 down.”
The Saints are coming off last Sunday’s 45-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons, winning back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“We’ve been plugging away, keeping a good attitude and encouraging one another,” Saints tight end Ernie Conwell said. “The mindset has so much to do with life. That has a lot to do with this business and this game. You’ve got to continue to believe in one another. You have to continue to believe in yourself.”
New Orleans, which led the NFC in scoring last season, gained 507 yards on offense—the most since they posted a team-record 557 against the Falcons in 1993. The 45 points were the third-most in team history.
“We’re excited because we’ve fought together as a team, and we’re climbing out of this hole together as a team,” linebacker Orlando Ruff said. “We’re peaking right now. This whole team is right where it needs to be. We’re looking to be 5-4 with momentum going into the bye week (Nov. 9).”
Carolina beat New Orleans 19-13 three weeks ago behind Davis’ 159 yards rushing.
“First and foremost is stopping him and (DeShaun) Foster,” said Saints linebacker Darrin Smith. “If we don’t get that done, we might as well stay home.”