Sports

Moore may have missed his chance

After two games as the Carolina Panthers' starting quarterback, Matt Moore was reminded of a message he heard from a coach earlier in his career.

"It's never as great as you think it is. It's never as bad as you think it is," Moore said of his 1-1 record since replacing injured and turnover-plagued Jake Delhomme.

As the Panthers' season lurches toward its conclusion, the challenges don't get any easier. With the Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre headed to town for a Sunday night game, it's possible Delhomme could return to the lineup if his injured throwing hand allows it this week.

Coach John Fox said Monday that Delhomme's status will be evaluated daily, leaving open the possibility that Moore could return to the bench this week.

The Panthers are in search of an offensive spark, something or someone that can ignite a unit averaging 12.3 points over its past four games.

There have been moments in the past two games when Moore has produced big plays - his 66-yard completion to Steve Smith against Tampa Bay was the Panthers' longest play of the season, and his 41-yard touchdown strike to Smith against New England was the highlight of a difficult day. There haven't been enough of them, however.

On the flight home from New England, Moore was left to digest his performance, in which he completed 15 of 30 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown. He didn't have an interception, but the Patriots had their hands on several passes.

"There were plays there to be had. That's the frustrating thing, that we didn't make them," Moore said.

"Playing in New England, (against) a good defense, they come from all angles so it's hard to feel comfortable. But I felt good with what we went in there with. Feeling comfortable in there isn't an issue any more."

There were moments, though, when the Carolina offense was out of sync. Four times the Panthers were called for illegal shift penalties.

In an article on ESPN.com's Boston Web site, former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi questioned if the penalties were Moore's fault.

"This was an ugly game," Bruschi wrote. "The Patriots came out flat and Matt Moore, the Panthers' quarterback, looked like he didn't know what he was doing at times. Sometimes, the Panthers couldn't even get lined up."

Fox was vague when asked about who was responsible for the penalties, focusing instead on the overall improvement that's needed from Moore and his teammates.

"There are a lot of things we still need to work on," Fox said. "I think (Moore) did some things (well) and there are some things he can improve on. That's typical of a young quarterback."

Moore said he felt like the Panthers were in a good rhythm early when he connected with Smith for the touchdown that gave Carolina a 7-0 first-half lead. However, Moore said he missed another opportunity to connect on a deep throw later in the game.

"There were a couple (of mistakes) ... and that's on me," Moore said. "Getting the ball out quicker, anticipating some things, just playing faster in general. Those are the things we have to correct."

On a national stage Sunday night against one of the NFL's top teams, Moore and the Panthers will face a Vikings' team that ranks sixth in total defense (303 yards per game) and fourth against the run (86.9 yards per game). The Vikings are playing to solidify their postseason position, an opportunity the Panthers have already lost.

"It's tough with where we are in the season," Moore said. "I believe we're better than what our record shows. The attitude is guys want to go out and show what we can do. Not only running the ball. We want to throw the ball. We have to do everything."

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