|Panthers feel problems are mental, not physical|
|Written by Steve Reed|
|Wednesday, 30 September 2009 17:51|
CHARLOTTE – Jake Delhomme has seen it before and it’s not pretty.
So if you believe that Fox isn’t the problem, then how do you explain a how a team that went 12-4 and won a division title last year suddenly looks horribly lost, incredibly inept and lacking in confidence? Well, if it’s any consolation, the Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins are wondering that same thing.
Fox tried the shed some positive light on the subject following Wednesday’s light practice in shorts.
“I think more of it is mental at this stage of the game than physical, which at the end of the day for me is encouraging,” Fox said. “We haven't seen it in the results, and everybody wants results and so do we. But I feel we've got an opportunity to get better and I'm pretty sure we will.”
Fox has been here before.
He was a secondary coach for the San Diego Chargers in 1992, a team that started the season 0-4 only to bounce back and make the playoffs. Before coming to Carolina he was the New York Giants defensive coordinator when they opened the season 1-4 only to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. It’s a good bet he’ll share those messages of hope with his players at some point before they return to the field Oct. 11 to face the Washington Redskins, especially since most of them have been steaily reminded that only three NFL teams have made the playoffs after starting the season 0-3 since the league went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990.
And, in an example closer to home, Fox might also point out that the Panthers went 1-7 in 2004 before rallying to finish 7-9, one game out of playoff contention.
For now, Fox’s message to players after a 21-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys was pretty simple.
“Number one is we get to define what we are, not anybody on the outside,” Fox said. “We've got to do a better job; we've got to do a better job of coaching; we've got to do a better job of playing in all three phases.”
Fox said the game film shows, “a definite lack of execution. I don't think it's as much physical as it is mental. Those things are correctable. It's there for the taking; we've just got to take it.”
But can the Panthers take it?
The good news is they should get a few players back for the Redskins, including safety Chris Harris, fullback Brad Hoover and defensive end Everette Brown, while others like linebacker Jon Beason will get additional time to further heal up. And the schedule coming out of the break is manageable with Washington (1-2), Tampa Bay (0-3) and Buffalo (1-2) all struggling, too.
“We need to get better mentally, because physically, there ain't a team in the league playing harder than we're playing,” said defensive tackle Damione Lewis. “We're just flying around. But we need to get a target for this missile we've got going on the field. We're not on target.”
Lewis said he still thinks the playoffs are an attainable goal.
“We've just got to clean it up. Come back 0-0, start fresh,” Lewis said. “It's no time to panic. We just need to get on a roll.”
Carolina’s struggles on offense are particularly surprising considering they have all 11 starters back from last season.
“I think it's just us not executing,” Hoover said. “A lot of things are very similar. But it comes down to finishing plays, making plays when you're given the opportunity, finishing runs, things like that that ultimately come down to making or breaking how a game goes.”
Defensively, the Panthers improved last week, although not enough to get a win.
That lends hope that they're starting to catch on to Ron Meeks’ defensive scheme.
“Last year we had so much stuff that you had to be prepared mentally for what's going on,” Lewis said. “Now it's so simple that sometimes, like for us up front, you might not hear the whole call. It's just adjusting. I think we're turning the corner. We had less (mental errors) than we had last week so we're getting better.”