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The lowly Panthers look to avoid an eighth straight home loss Sunday when they face the 49ers, who are coming off their first win in two months.
It hasn’t been a pleasant season for the former NFC West rivals, who meet for the first time since Carolina won 37-27 on Nov. 11, 2004 and just the second time since the Panthers left for the NFC South in 2002.
Though San Francisco (3-8) will finish without a winning record for the fifth straight year, it’s coming off a 37-31 overtime victory at Arizona last Sunday that snapped an eight-game losing streak.
“The eight-week span was a difficult one on everyone,” San Francisco coach Mike Nolan said. “I’d like to see with the five weeks remaining after this, that we start a streak unlike the one we were just in.”
Carolina (4-7) may be in worse shape than the 49ers as it tries to avoid a sixth consecutive defeat after a 31-6 loss to New Orleans last week dropped it to 0-5 at home. The Panthers, whose last win came Oct. 14, haven’t lost six in a row since Oct. 3-Nov. 7, 2004.
The Panthers, who lost their final two home games of 2006, have been outscored 200-70 in their last seven games at Bank of America Stadium. They haven’t been this bad at home since losing all eight games in 2001.
“Right now we’re just not a very good football team … and the buck stops here,” embattled Carolina coach John Fox said.
The Panthers’ last home win came Nov. 19, 2006.
While San Francisco has had little success in recent years, the Panthers’ regression after finishing 11-5 and reaching the NFC championship game two seasons ago has continued in 2007. A popular pick to reach the Super Bowl last season, the Panthers finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
The lack of progress could cost Fox his job, though his contract runs through 2010.
“That’s for other people (to decide),” said Fox of his job security. “We’re not pleased with where we are right now. We still have five games to go and those decisions are not in my control.”
The Panthers didn’t help his case by totaling 195 yards and failing to score a touchdown against the Saints.
Carolina ranks 27th in the NFL with 15.7 points per game, but is averaging 10.0 during its losing streak. Four of the defeats have come by 13 points or more.
“It’s not like we were purposely trying to not score points,” said David Carr, who threw for 95 yards with two interceptions Sunday while starting in place of Vinny Testaverde, who was out with a sore back.
It seems unlikely that the Panthers would improve much offensively Sunday with Testaverde expected to start if he’s healthy. The 44-year-old Testaverde is 1-3 as starter since joining the Panthers in October, when top quarterback Jake Delhomme was lost for the season with an elbow injury.
Testaverde, who’s thrown for 699 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions, is 0-4 against San Francisco. He hasn’t faced the 49ers since 2001 while with the New York Jets.
San Francisco ranks last in the NFL in scoring average (13.6 points) and yards per game (235.0), but scored two more points Sunday than it has in its previous four contests combined. It was the 49ers’ highest output since their 41-38 loss at Cincinnati on Dec. 14, 2003.
The 49ers also recorded season highs in total yards (374), passing yards (237) and rushing yards (137), and ended the wild contest when Tully Banta-Cain fell on Kurt Warner’s fumble in the end zone in overtime.
“You could have swore we just won the Super Bowl the way we were celebrating,” Banta-Cain said.
Trent Dilfer started in place of quarterback Alex Smith, who’s expected to miss at least one more week with a shoulder injury, and went 25-for-39 for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Frank Gore rushed for a season-high 116 yards and two TDs on 21 carries, and caught 11 passes for 98 yards.
Dilfer, who recorded his first win since Nov. 27, 2005 while with Cleveland, is 2-1 as a starter versus Carolina. He hasn’t faced the Panthers since 1998, when he played for Tampa Bay.
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