CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Carolina Panthers hardly expected to
go 16-0. They just acted like it.
Question on the Titans: Is anyone in the league playing nearly as well as McNair right now?
Simply put, no. McNair is making a case for MVP this season with his consistently great performances. Before he was lauded for being hurt and playing well, now he should be lauded for playing great football. There's no doubt that he's one of the best players in the league.
Question on the Panthers: Was this the reality check folks were expecting against the Colts?
Yes, last week the Panthers almost coughed up the game against the Colts and that game exposed their weak defensive backfield. Because of that weakness, strong passing teams will be able to put up points against this stout defense.
Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.
One example: Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins showed up for
Sunday's game against Tennessee wearing a jersey from the Miami
Dolphins' perfect 1972 season.
The Titans had other ideas, jumping out to a 20-0 lead and
converting four fumbles into scores while handing the Panthers
their first loss of the season, 37-17 Sunday.
"I had no visions of going undefeated," Carolina coach John
Fox said. "But I didn't want to lose a game like that."
The Panthers (5-1) fumbled away the opening kickoff, leading to
Steve McNair's rushing touchdown. Then the Titans (5-2) padded
their lead to 14-0 and grabbed momentum with a 50-yard pass from
Billy Volek to Eddie Berlin on a fake punt.
Keith Bullock later scored on a 35-yard fumble recovery, and
Gary Anderson added field goals of 32, 34 and 40 yards for the
"We wanted to score first and see if they could come from
behind," McNair said. "They couldn't."
Not with all of the Panthers' mistakes. They found themselves
playing to a chorus of boos before halftime.
And the game exposed many of Carolina's weaknesses.
The Panthers' vaunted defense struggled to stop the pass,
allowing McNair to go 12-of-22 for 190 yards, including a 22-yard
touchdown pass to Drew Bennett. It also had difficulty containing a
mobile quarterback: McNair scrambled for 30 yards, with a 7-yard
touchdown run in the first quarter.
"He's tough when he's scrambling around. You've got to make him
stay in the pocket," safety Mike Minter said. "We couldn't do
that and it cost us because he makes too many plays."
Also glaringly evident is that when Carolina's running game
doesn't work -- and it never did against Tennessee -- the Panthers
have little to fall back on.
Stephen Davis, who entered the game with 641 yards rushing and
four 100-yard games, was held to just 20 yards on 11 carries.
Carolina, which came in averaging 172 yards on the ground, finished
"We wanted to come in and stop their run and make them try to
throw the ball," defensive end Jevon Kearse said. "Then we wanted
to knock Jake Delhomme out of the game and get some of (backup)
The Titans never knocked Delhomme out, but they forced him to
abandon the running game and try to pass the ball. It was next to
impossible against Tennessee's stifling defense, which sacked him
Although Delhomme finished with two touchdown passes and a
career-high 362 yards, much of it came long after the outcome was
decided. His 67-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith in the fourth
quarter made it 30-10.
"We have to be able to run the football," Delhomme said.
"We're not a team that wants to throw it."
DeShaun Foster had Carolina's final fumble, which Bullock
scooped up and returned for a 37-10 lead with eight minutes left.
It was Tennessee's first victory this season against a team with
a winning record. The Titans did it by taking advantage of miscues
right from the start.
Carolina's Brad Hoover fumbled away the opening kickoff, and
Tennessee recovered at the Panthers 30. McNair got the Titans
rolling with a 21-yard pass to Bennett, then ran the ball in to
make it 7-0 a little more than two minutes into the game.
Carolina went three-and-out on its next possession. But at least
the Panthers then forced the Titans to punt -- or so it seemed.
Instead, backup quarterback Volek took the snap and tossed a
perfect pass to Berlin, who ran down the sideline for a 14-0 lead
after fewer than seven minutes.
The Titans never let up, and when McNair threw a 22-yard TD pass
to Bennett 11 seconds before halftime, the score was 27-3, and the
home fans were jeering the Panthers.
"We wanted to get up on them right off the bat and have them
kind of thinking what hit them," Bennett said. "And then we just
kept piling on in the first half. They always talk about Carolina
being a second-half team, but we came out already out of reach."
Jenkins wouldn't talk about his Dolphins' jersey -- or
McNair's play -- after the game. ... The Panthers hadn't allowed a
team to score in the first quarter this season. ... Robert Holcombe
led the Titans with 53 yards rushing on 16 carries. Eddie George
finished with 51 yards. ... Carolina receiver Steve Smith had a
career-high 151 yards on 10 catches. ... The Panthers had three
sacks, snapping a two-game drought.