Pan­thers look for home win against Fal­cons

Carolina seeks first home win in nearly a year

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Mike Cranston

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C.— Mike Rucker’s alarm will go off at 7 a.m. to­day. An hour later, the Carolina Pan­thers’ de­fen­sive end will eat some spaghetti with chicken. He’ll then drive to the sta­dium and ar­rive ex­actly three hours be­fore kick­off.

Con­vinced that con­sis­tency is im­por­tant, Rucker’s game­day sched­ule hasn’t changed for years. Ev­ery­thing is timed to the minute, from when he puts on his pads to his pregame work­out.

Only when the Pan­thers (4-4) face the At­lanta Fal­cons (2-6) to­day, Rucker would like to stop what’s be­come a sting­ing part of the rou­tine: end­ing his day talk­ing about an­other Pan­thers’ home loss.

Carolina hasn’t won a game at Bank of Amer­ica Sta­dium in 51 weeks and 357 days. In ad­di­tion, five quar­ter­backs have played for Carolina in the stretch of five losses.

“It’s not like any­thing is dif­fer­ent. It’s not that you’re not want­ing to win, that you’re not try­ing,” Rucker said. “It’s just tough to an­swer why we haven’t been stronger at home.”

With scores of 37-3, 20-7 and 31-7 dur­ing the streak, the Pan­thers have been booed by their home fans and played in the fourth quar­ter in front of thou­sands of empty seats.

What makes it puz­zling is the Pan­thers have been able to win on the road. Last week’s loss to Ten­nessee ended a sixgame road win­ning streak dat­ing to last sea­son. Coach John Fox has a bet­ter road record (25-19) than home mark (2221) with Carolina.

Fox is con­vinced it’s be­cause of the teams they’ve played at home. But that the­ory will be tested against the Fal­cons — even with the Pan­thers fac­ing more un­cer­tainty at quar­ter­back.

At­lanta did end a three-game los­ing streak with a 20-16 win over San Fran­cisco last week, but re­mains one of the league’s worst teams and ranks 27th in to­tal of­fense.

The Pan­thers won the first meet­ing, 27-20 in Septem­ber, in no small part due to DeAn­gelo Hall’s melt­down.

The Fal­cons cor­ner­back was called for 67 yards worth of penal­ties on one drive — in­clud­ing two per­sonal fouls — as he couldn’t stop jaw­ing with re­ceiver Steve Smith. The Pan­thers scored the ty­ing touch­down on the drive and took con­trol from there.

“We have talked about that,” Fal­cons coach Bobby Petrino said. “He has done a nice job and is work­ing at it. He’s been play­ing well and I know he’s look­ing for­ward to the game.”

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