Perfect record gone and forgotten in Carolina

Updated: October 20, 2003, 8:12 PM ET

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A year ago, the Carolina Panthers followed a 3-0 start with an eight-game losing streak. This time, the Panthers swear a streak-ending 37-17 thumping Sunday by Tennessee won't be a psychological barrier.

"We lost one game. It's in the bank now," Terry Cousin said. "We were going to lose one game, unless we were so special as to be like the (1972 Miami) Dolphins."

After making an art form of seizing opportunities in close wins over Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, the Panthers (5-1) never had a chance Sunday. They fumbled the opening kickoff, leading to a Tennessee touchdown, then the Titans turned a 3-yard out on a fake punt into another touchdown. Carolina trailed 20-0 early in the second quarter, .

"You just try to understand how people are going to try to attack you" when you're a winning team, Cousin said. "Fake punts, bloop kicks on the kickoff. ... They even did some trick plays on defense that we caught."< ^Eagles=

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia's offense just keeps getting worse.

The Eagles (3-3) beat the New York Giants 14-10 despite another inept performance from their offense, proving it's possible to be thoroughly dominated and still win.

The Giants outgained the Eagles 339-134, 25-9 in first downs and held an 11:24 edge in time of possession. But Brian Westbrook returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown with 1:16 left for the victory, quite possibly saving the season.

"We need to improve offensively. That's obvious," Eagles coach Andy Reid said Monday. "I'm not happy with the way we're playing offensively. It's not one particular guy. It starts with me, but it's got to go all the way across the board here. We have got to improve. We've got to get that answered and we need to do it quick."

Benching QB Donovan McNabb, a three-time Pro Bowl player, could be a solution, but Reid won't do it unless his quarterback is too hurt to play. McNabb has been playing with a sprained right thumb and Reid plans to limit his practice time this week.< ^Bills=

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- There's room for both running backs Travis Henry and Willis McGahee in the Buffalo backfield.

Bills president Tom Donahoe won't alter his plans despite Henry's career-best performance in Buffalo's 24-7 victory over Washington on Sunday. With 167 yards rushing and two touchdowns, Henry reinvigorated a sputtering running attack averaging less than 58 yards.

Henry's performance came in the same week the Bills cleared McGahee for practice, nearly 10 months after the former Miami star tore three ligaments in his left knee. The first-round draft pick could be placed on the active roster by Nov. 5, setting up a potential running back rivalry.

"You need more than one good back in this league," Donahoe said. "The good teams always have another good back because it's hard for anybody to carry the ball 28, 30 times a game over 16 games."< ^Giants=

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jim Fassel is ready to invoke his late-season magic early this year, saying his New York Giants can still make the playoffs despite a 2-4 start due to awful special teams and inconsistent offense.

"We can. We can do it," said Fassel, who is under fire with the Giants in last place in the NFC East, where they were one of the preseason favorites. "There is not an attitude on this team or with me that all hope is lost. You can make fun of that all you want. When you are in the arena and doing the fighting, you better start believing in yourself, that you can do it."

Philadelphia got a gift Sunday when Brian Westbrook scored on an 84-yard punt return with 1:16 to play. The Giants outgained the Eagles 339-134.

In Week 2, Dallas beat New York in overtime after the Giants failed to keep a squib kick inbounds in the final seconds. It set up a last-second game-tying field goal.

The Giants have never started a season with a 2-4 record and made the playoffs. But Fassel's teams are 19-5 in December.< ^Ravens=

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- One day after his best passing performance as a pro, Kyle Boller still couldn't shake the sting of defeat -- or the throbbing from a sprained left shoulder.

The rookie went 15-for-27 for 302 yards and two touchdowns in Baltimore's 34-26 loss at Cincinnati. Boller was in obvious pain after being driven to the ground by Justin Smith with 1:20 left, but didn't miss a down and expects to start this Sunday against Denver.

"There was no way that he was coming out of the game, and that's a good sign," Billick said. "For him to come back and make the throws he did while being hurt, you've got to be impressed with that."

Boller's 104.2 passer rating against the Bengals more than doubled the 46.2 mark he brought into the game. But he lost two fumbles and threw an interception to put the Ravens in a 24-7 hole at halftime.< ^Rams=

ST. LOUIS -- Heading into a stretch in which they'll play four of five games on the road, the Rams' depth chart is getting mighty thin.

The team finished Sunday's victory over the Packers without three defensive and two offensive starters. Safety Adam Archuleta (ankle) probably will return this week at Pittsburgh, but outside linebacker Tommy Polley (dislocated elbow) will be out at least a month and cornerback Travis Fisher (groin) probably will miss at least one game.

On offense, tackle Kyle Turley (concussion) won't be cleared to practice until Friday at the earliest after being accidentally kneed in the back of the head. Running back Lamar Gordon (high ankle sprain) left in the first quarter and probably will be out this week.

None of it slowed the Rams (4-2) in a 34-24 victory over the Packers.

"It's amazing with some of these guys, how well they've filled in," coach Mike Martz said Monday.

There was no drop-off in play from such backups as safety Rich Coady, linebacker Jamie Duncan, rookie cornerback DeJuan Groce, tackle Grant Williams and running back Arlen Harris. The undrafted Harris had 85 yards on 18 carries and his first career touchdown as the most visible example.< ^Vikings=

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The NFC's only unbeaten team believes there's plenty of room for improvement.

"You have to get better every week or you're going to get passed," free safety Brian Russell said Monday, reflecting on a 28-20 win over Denver that pushed Minnesota's record to 6-0.

For everything they did right, the Vikings also yielded 27 first downs, put together a sustained drive on offense only once and committed 14 penalties.

"We're still not a good football team. We have a long way to go," coach Mike Tice said. "I know you guys roll your eyes at me when I say that, but we can be better -- and we have to be better before we can beat some of the teams we're playing in the coming weeks."

Star receiver Randy Moss has a whopping 23 receptions for 404 yards and five touchdowns in his last three games.

"Hopefully we don't get too complacent with everything going on," Moss said. "I really just want to keep doing what we're doing."< ^Bears=

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears fell to the Seattle Seahawks 24-17 without starters Kordell Stewart, Anthony Thomas, Marty Booker, Keith Traylor and Warrick Holdman. Adrian Peterson, Ahmad Merritt and Desmond Clark were among those hurt during the game, but injuries weren't why they lost for the fifth time in six games this season and are 3-17 in their last 20 games.

Their offense managed just one touchdown behind veteran Chris Chandler and their defense gave up a 72-yard drive in the final minutes.

They wilted Sunday after Chandler ran for a 2-point conversion to tie the game with just over four minutes left. A slow start and weak finish have been a trend this season.

"It certainly doesn't speak well for anything we've done," Jauron said. "We need to do a lot better job everywhere, on the field and off the field. Preparation. Everything. Game plan."

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