Moore impresses in debut, road gets tougher

They played it safe, leaned on their running game and took

advantage of an improbable number of mistakes by one of the NFL’s

worst teams.

Still, Matt Moore was a winner in his first start in nearly two

years and will likely remain Carolina’s quarterback for another

week – when the competition gets much tougher.

A day after the Panthers beat woeful Tampa Bay 16-6, coach John

Fox was typically evasive on Monday. He wouldn’t declare Moore the

starter next week at New England, said he didn’t know when Jake

Delhomme would be able to practice again, and replied “I can’t

answer ifs” when asked if Delhomme starts again when his broken

finger is healed.

“He obviously did some good things, and some things we’ve got

to continue to work on,” Fox said of Moore. “I thought he played

well enough for us to win.”

The Panthers (5-7) clearly had a restrained passing game. Led by

Jonathan Stewart’s 120 yards rushing and a touchdown, they ran the

ball 33 times to just 20 passes. Carolina twice ran draw plays on

third-and-10 and again on third-and-8.

“We were running the ball well, a lot of quick game stuff,

getting the ball out fast,” Moore said. “That makes it easy on

any quarterback.”

The 25-year-old Moore also showed a strong arm when he had a

chance, completing 14 of 20 passes for 161 yards. It included a

66-yard completion to Steve Smith in the fourth quarter –

Carolina’s longest pass of the season – that set up the clinching

field goal.

“It was a great throw,” tight end Jeff King said. “That’s

kind of what we’ve been missing the last couple weeks with our

passing game.”

Indeed, Carolina has been bogged down with Delhomme having the

worst season of his career. While Moore overthrew Smith for what

would’ve been a touchdown and threw an interception on a poor pass

intended for Dante Rosario, he showed more precision than Delhomme,

who has 18 interceptions in 11 games.

Moore had a mediocre 73.1 passer rating Sunday, but that dwarfs

Delhomme’s 59.4 mark for the season. Moore, much more laid back

than Delhomme, provided a different atmosphere in the huddle,

too.

“He was great. He was Matt,” King said. “He’s a confident

kid. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He’s young, he wants to

sling it around. That’s him, he has a quiet confidence about

him.”

Stewart’s play helped, too. Filling as the No. 1 back for the

injured DeAngelo Williams, Stewart averaged 4.6 yards on a

career-high 26 carries, including a 3-yard run on the opening drive

for the game’s only touchdown.

“I thought Jonathan Stewart showed up big,” Fox said. “He

hadn’t been called upon with that big a load as being a No. 1 guy.

I was really impressed with the way he ran and how he rose to the

occasion.”

So did the defense. While outgained 469-309, the Panthers

intercepted Josh Freeman five times. Safety Chris Harris, who had

one of the picks, said Freeman was locking into his receivers

inside the 20. Carolina had three interceptions in or near the end

zone.

“Most rookie quarterbacks, they kind of look at their intended

receivers,” Harris said. “That gets better over time. But, yeah,

you were able to see where he was throwing the ball because he

would stare down his intended receivers.”

Moore, in his third season but with only four career starts,

didn’t make those mistakes. While Fox wouldn’t make it certain,

he’ll likely be starting Sunday at the Patriots (7-5), who will be

desperate to end a surprising two-game losing streak

It’s the start of the big-boy portion of the schedule for Moore,

now 3-1 as an NFL starter. After New England, the Panthers face

Minnesota (10-2), the New York Giants (7-5) and New Orleans (12-0)

to close the season.

“He needed to build some confidence in himself,” King said.

“For him, he hasn’t played in a couple of years, or at least

started in a game. It was good for him to get some plays under his

belt, some success, and hopefully he can build on that for this

week.”