Panthers' QB battle continues|Clausen goes back to bench

Published 11:42 pm Tuesday, October 19, 2010

By By MIKE CRANSTON, AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE — Things are so bad on offense for the Carolina Panthers that struggling rookie Jimmy Clausen was benched Monday to make way for a quarterback with eight turnovers and a 33.3 passer rating.
Only Matt Moore is hoping a nostalgic film session will help him regain his 2009 form and end Carolina’s nightmare start to the season.
The Panthers (0-5) returned from their bye weekend to hear coach John Fox announce in a team meeting that Moore, benched after six turnovers in the first two games, would again take control of the NFL’s worst offense against San Francisco (1-5) on Sunday.
Fox announced the move to reporters in a statement through a team spokesman.
‘‘We have struggled on offense since the beginning of the season,’’ said Fox, whose team is averaging a league-low 10.4 points a game. ‘‘Sometimes it helps to step back and watch and Matt has had a chance to do that.’’
What Moore saw wasn’t pretty — perhaps uglier than his own performance in the first two games. Clausen, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, has completed just 47 percent of his passes with one touchdown and three interceptions. Clausen, who has struggled finding receivers, has also fumbled seven times, losing two, and holds a 52.2 passer rating.
Fox yanked Clausen late in Carolina’s last game, a 23-6 loss to Chicago on Oct. 10 in which top receiver Steve Smith (ankle) was sidelined. Moore, though, then quickly threw two interceptions against the Bears.
That left the 26-year-old Moore with two touchdown passes, six picks and two lost fumbles. But Moore, who got more time with the starters in practice last week, said he’s gained confidence watching year-old film.
It was Moore’s strong end to last season in place of an injured an ineffective Jake Delhomme — going 4-1 with eight touchdowns and one interception — that got Delhomme released in March.
‘‘It’s a good reminder of what you can do,’’ said Moore, who has completed just 42 percent of his passes this season. ‘‘It reminds me, when times are tough, that it can be done. You can do this, and you’ve made this throw, you’ve been in this situation, and here’s the result.’’
The Panthers, hopeful Moore was the answer at QB after Delhomme’s 18 interceptions in 2009, gave him a one-year, $3.043 million deal as a restricted free agent in the offseason.
But that was before Clausen’s arrival and a roster overhaul that left Carolina the NFL’s youngest team with an extremely young receiving corps. Opposing teams have consistently loaded the line of scrimmage with extra defenders to stop the run. With Smith often double covered, the QBs have had few options.
The Panthers have five touchdowns and 16 turnovers.
‘‘A big thing for us, and something I’m going to try to stress, is game management,’’ Moore said. ‘‘Getting as many yards as you can on first and second down and staying in third-and-short and third-and-reasonable. We’ve been in third-and-long way too much this year.’’
Clausen, who has looked uncomfortable in the pocket, wasn’t made available to reporters on Monday. Fox last week dismissed talk that Clausen’s confidence could be shaken if he continued to struggle and the Panthers, off to their worst start in 12 years, continued to lose.
‘‘We didn’t win the first two games that I played and a change was made,’’ Moore said. ‘‘We haven’t won the past three games and a change was made. That’s the way this business works.’’
It’s uncertain how many options Moore will have against San Francisco with Smith trying to recover from a high ankle sprain. Carolina’s depth chart after Smith includes three rookies and two recent waiver claims.
‘‘I think we can be more precise with our routes,’’ said rookie receiver David Gettis. ‘‘Just making plays, catching every single pass that comes our way and being that threat so we can also loosen up the run game.’’
The next game will perhaps provide Carolina’s best chance to win in a while. The 49ers’ sloppy 17-9 victory over Oakland Sunday left only Carolina and Buffalo (0-5) in the NFL’s winless club.
‘‘We’re trying to find something that works,’’ Moore said. ‘‘If this is what it takes, this is what it takes. We’re hoping to find a spark and hopefully we can do that.’’