But Lucas is steadily earning his pay, reeling in two
game-changing interceptions Sunday to help the Panthers to a 30-3
victory over the stumbling New York Jets.
"He earns that contract every day," safety Mike Minter said.
"That is the type of player we needed in our secondary. His
interceptions changed the complexion of the game."
Lucas' picks started a rash of turnovers -- four of which came on
consecutive New York possessions, to help the Panthers (7-2) pull
away for their sixth-straight victory.
The Jets (2-7) finished with six turnovers that Carolina
converted into 20 points.
Carolina led 10-3 when Brooks Bollinger, the fourth quarterback
this season for the injury-ravaged Jets, moved New York to the
Carolina 24. He had an open shot at the end zone when Laveranues
Coles blew past Lucas, but Coles had to wait for Bollinger's pass --
which hung in the air long enough for Lucas to catch up and jump in
front of him for an interception in the end zone.
"He beat me on that, but I didn't quit on the play," Lucas
said. "I took it away from him and they kind of gave up after that
because they felt they couldn't score.
"It's good when you get a team to quit on you."
Bollinger, who was sacked four times, threw four interceptions
and finished 11-of-21 for 98 yards, insisted the Jets didn't give
"I wasn't going to back down -- we were still in the game," he
said. "But obviously from there it didn't go my way. I made some
bad decisions but mostly just bad throws.
"And they didn't miss any beats. They made the plays when they
had the chance."
The Panthers didn't score after Lucas' first pick, but got
another chance on New York's next possession when Bollinger was
again picked off by Lucas, giving the Panthers the ball at the New
That turnover put a spark in Carolina's defense on a day when
the Panthers' offense wasn't nearly as efficient as it had been the
last two weeks.
Carolina didn't squander its second chance, handing it off eight
times before Stephen Davis finally punched it in on a 1-yard score.
It was Davis' 12th touchdown of the season, and gave the Panthers a
17-3 lead with 13:25 to go.
New York then fell apart.
Bollinger seemed rattled under pressure and threw his third pick
-- to Gamble -- on the next series to set up Kasay's third field
"We were like `Gee Whiz!' they are just snatching the balls out
of the air," said Carolina defensive end Mike Rucker.
Bollinger could do nothing right from there, and was picked off
for a fourth time by Witherspoon, who ran it in for the score.
"It's almost unbelievable, you sit there and say, 'This is not
happening,' " said New York running back Curtis Martin. "It seems
like it didn't stop."
Carolina's strong defensive showing helped the Panthers win on a
day in which star receiver Steve Smith was a non-factor.
Jets cornerback Ty Law played Smith tough all day, holding him
to three catches for 34 yards. New York's defense also limited
Davis to 81 yards rushing.
But behind the inexperienced Bollinger, New York's offense was
stuck in neutral. Martin was held to 75 yards rushing. The Jets had
214 yards total offense.
New York coach Herman Edwards seemed defeated afterward,
defensive about Bollinger's play and the effort his injury-plagued
team is giving.
"That's a young quarterback, he doesn't have a lot of
experience, he's doing as good as he can do," Edwards said.
"That's all you can ask of any of these guys. If you have a
problem with that, it's too bad."
^Notes:@ Jets right tackle Jason Fabini tore his left pectoral
muscle in the first quarter and will miss the rest of the season.
He was replaced by Scott Gragg, who gave up a sack to Kindal
Moorehead shortly after entering the game. ... Martin lost a fumble
in the second quarter, his first since the eighth game of the 2003
season -- a span of 863 carries. ... Nine of Davis' 12 TDs have been
on 1-yard runs. ... Jake Delhomme was intercepted twice, and
finished 10-of-20 for 119 yards and a 19-yard TD to Keary Colbert.
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