ROCK HILL - When it comes to the Carolina Panthers' passing game, there is plenty of frustration to go around.
The hope, however, is that they are making progress, and have pushed past last week's issues.
Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith knew what was coming when reporters walked into the locker room Wednesday, aware that everyone who watched the broadcast of Sunday's game at New Orleans saw his second-quarter outburst, apparently aimed at the coaching staff.
The volley followed a short pass to Smith in the flat, after which he was hit out of bounds and in the legs by Saints safety Darren Sharper, drawing a penalty. But Smith brushed past Sharper before he started yelling, and lip readers would suggest it was something along the lines of "Don't call that play no more," only with a few extra words sprinkled in for effect.
Never miss a local story.
"I'm a volatile guy, obviously," Smith said, tongue-in-cheek. "So was I upset with multiple things? Probably, probably not. But this week is the Atlanta Falcons, so that's what I'm going to focus on. But you can always go back to the film and analyze it and write what you're going to write."
Asked if he was more upset with the play-call than Sharper, Smith said: "I would think that would be inaccurate because you weren't me."
Asked what he was upset with, and Smith broke out the old soft-shoe routine.
"Nothing, because we're playing the Atlanta Falcons," he said with a grin. "I've been doing this for a while, so I'm very able to get around it. And I won't (discuss it). It's a new week."
Panthers coach John Fox denied that Smith was yelling at coaches. Asked to clarify if he meant Smith was yelling at the Saints' defensive back, Fox said "I was standing right there, and that's the way I saw it. I was probably closer than anybody standing here."
The Panthers know that if they are going to turn things around, they are going to have to be more productive in the passing game.
Quarterback Jake Delhomme has played two consecutive games without an interception, but his script seemed limited the past two weeks.
"For me, I don't think it could have gotten any lower after Buffalo, there's no doubt," Delhomme said. "But you just keep swinging. That's something that I wasn't going to stop doing. You've got to just keep swinging and play. You've got to just go out and play, and I think that's worked pretty well for me the last two weeks."
Still, Delhomme knows he is not being given a full arsenal. He remained diplomatic when asked whether he felt restrained.
"Not necessarily," he said. "We're doing a very good job running the football. I don't think there's any doubt we had some long drives. And we can say we had to throw it a lot at the end. But I think the thing that really hurt us the other day is I think we had a 19-play drive and we came away with three points. That was crucial because running and throwing we did some good things on that drive.
"But you play to win the game, whatever fashion that may be that day."
Likewise, Smith was not biting when asked about the choice of plays, saying with a laugh: "I'm not dipping up in that can (of) chili."
Everyone knows the Panthers struggled early to throw to their own guys, so there are not many options downfield. As a result, Smith's 50-yard score in Arizona was the only touchdown to a receiver this year, as tight ends Jeff King and Dante Rosario have two each.
"I mean, my standards don't go that low to ever imagine that, so no," Smith said when asked about that stat.