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Bobbled pitch puts Panthers on board

Times Staff and Wire Reports
Published January 11, 2004

ST. LOUIS - Call it the scrumble.

Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad scored the Panthers first touchdown, recovering a fumble in the end zone after a mad scramble.

The play began with quarterback Jake Delhomme attempting to pitch the ball to running back DeShaun Foster. But Delhomme's arm was hit and the ball was deflected by defensive end Leonard Little.

"Our position coach (former Bucs coach Richard Williamson) during training camp, he's got this fumble drill and we just hate it, man," Muhammad said. "He keeps talking about this is going to help you out here or there. I think we're going to be doing it every training camp now."

RUN AND DONE: Panthers running back Stephen Davis produced the longest run of the game: a 64-yarder in the second quarter that set up the Panthers' first touchdown. But Davis never touched the ball again. He injured his quad muscle, slamming his helmet to the turf before being taken to the locker room.

"It happened at the end of the run," Davis said. "It was before I was tackled and slowed down. It was right before he caught me."

Without Davis, who finished with 86 yards on six carries, the Panthers ground attack was in good hands. Foster replaced Davis and finished with 95 yards on 21 carries.

OT? OKAY: The Panthers are no strangers to overtime. They were 3-1 in games during the regular season that went into the fifth quarter.

"We've been in so many of them," Delhomme said. "We just believe we can get it done some sort of way. Things went our way a few times today, but that happens when things are going well. If we're in that same type of ballgame next week, we truly believe we're going to get it done."

BEHIND THE COACH: The Rams players weren't second-guessing coach Mike Martz or his decision to run out the clock and kick a field goal at the end of regulation. There was plenty of blame for everyone, including an offense that sputtered inside the 20 and a defense that gave up 485 yards.

"I was very sure about the decision and I don't regret that decision," Martz said. "We had our opportunities in overtime, we just didn't get it done.

"I was concerned about a shot to the end zone from where we were. I would have hated to have the ball tipped or intercepted."

"If we'd have played good defense, who knows, we still might be out there playing." defensive end Grant Wistrom said.

The loss could hurt defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, who has interviewed for several coaching jobs.

LONG RECORD: Jeff Wilkins 51-yard field goal was the longest in Rams playoff history.

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