NFL: Coach defends Panthers

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 24, 2008

By Mike Cranston
Associated Press
CHARLOTTE ó Carolina Panthers coach John Fox sat in front of reporters a day after an ugly loss and tried to whisk away all the concerns by continually bringing up the same thing: they’re 8-3.
Sure, they haven’t been able to stop the run for three straight weeks. Yes, they’ve been inconsistent on offense. They haven’t picked up a first down until the second quarter in each of their last two games, too.
But after getting pushed around in a 45-28 loss in Atlanta ó the most points allowed in Fox’s seven seasons in Carolina ó Fox downplayed any perceived problems.
Missed tackles? Soft coverages? Woeful starts? Fox on Monday only wanted to talk about their record and how they still share first place in the NFC South.
“I don’t know what you call problems,” Fox said. “I think overall in our body of work we’ve played pretty good defense and good enough to win eight games. Are the three losses problems? I guess. I don’t really know how else to answer that.”
Fox wasn’t budging. Even after watching the Panthers nosedive from second in scoring defense to seventh after giving up 67 points in the last two games. Even after allowing 405 yards rushing in the past three. Even after falling behind 10-0 and 17-0 before recording a first down the last two weeks.
“We’re ready to play,” Fox replied when asked about the slow starts. “Have we been more ready to play in the eight wins and less ready to play in the three losses? I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I’m just glad it isn’t the other way around.”
Fox’s protect-the-players-at-all-costs philosophy was in overdrive as he was quizzed about the Panthers’ jarring loss to the Falcons. Instead of taking control of the division, the Panthers fell into a tie with the Buccaneers (8-3) and allowed the Falcons (7-4) to stay in the race, too.