By The Associated Press

Jake Delhomme is getting too much of the blame for Carolina’s offensive woes and will remain the starter, coach John Fox said Monday.

“When you drop back to pass the ball it’s a team effort,” Fox said a day after the Panthers mustered only 264 yards in a 17-13 loss to Washington, which has the 30th-ranked defense. “Whenever you don’t play well enough to win I’m not sure it’s one guy. It’s definitely not just Jake.”

Delhomme was 23-of-38 for 168 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions against the Redskins. His second pick was costly. On first down from the Washington 41, Delhomme was pressured and his badly overthrown pass for Steve Smith into double coverage was caught by Washington safety Sean Taylor with 2:09 left.

“I got hit and it obviously didn’t go where I thought it was going to go,” Delhomme said. “But they were playing coverage to him all day long, maybe once or twice they didn’t. He was running and I was trying to throw it down the seam. I didn’t anticipate it to go there. But I was giving him a chance on that play.

“That’s why that (throw) looked like a kickoff.”

The loss against the downtrodden Redskins dropped the Panthers (6-5) a game behind New Orleans in the NFC South and continued a maddening inconsistent season.

Delhomme has 12 touchdown passes, nine interceptions and a passer rating of only 78.7. But Fox said that, barring injury, he’ll remain the starter ahead of Chris Weinke.

“I think he’s proven he’s the right guy,” Fox said. “Until he proves otherwise, we’ll stay the same. I can’t sit here and predict the future, but I don’t want to give any inclinations that we’re thinking about changing the quarterback.”

Buccaneers

Tampa Bay placed guard Dan Buenning on injured reserve and signed center Nick Mihlhauser and safety Donte Nicholson.

Buenning tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the Bucs’ 38-10 loss to Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. The second-year pro appeared in nine games, including seven starts, this season.

Mihlhauser was signed as an undrafted free agent by San Diego on May 4. He was released on Sept. 2, then signed to the Chargers’ practice squad.

Nicholson, a fifth-round draft pick in 2005, was released by Tampa Bay following training camp. He appeared in nine games, mostly on special teams, last season.

Jets

Chad Pennington’s surgically repaired right shoulder was fine Monday, a day after the New York Jets quarterback landed on the arm and had the wind knocked out of him during a scary hit.

“I think it’s a confidence builder that you can take a lick and get up and finish a game,” Pennington said.

Houston rookie defensive end Mario Williams hit Pennington as he completed a short pass and fell on top of him late in the third quarter of the Jets’ 26-11 victory Sunday. Pennington’s right arm, operated on twice the last two seasons for rotator cuff tears, was pinned underneath him.

“He got me pretty good,” said Pennington, who watched film of the hit Monday. “I was throwing, so as I threw it, then that put my shoulder in that position, but things worked out.”

The hit left Pennington on the Meadowlands turf gasping for air, but the immediate fear was another injury to the shoulder. After a few tense minutes, Pennington got up and walked off the field, pumping his right fist. He then waved both arms – firing up the crowd and letting them know the shoulder was OK.

“Jonathan Vilma said he’s going to fine me,” a shirtless Pennington said with a laugh – the scars from the previous operations clearly visible, “especially for just getting the breath knocked out of you.”

He said he’s been moving his arm around and testing the shoulder to make sure it’s sound.

Colts

The Colts, who have been without wide receiver Brandon Stokley for most of the season, are very close to adding veteran free agent Ricky Proehl to their roster.

Coach Tony Dungy said Monday the team was talking with Proehl, who was in Indianapolis, but he did not think he had been signed. However, Proehl’s agent, Alan Herman, told The Indianapolis Star the 38-year-old receiver had signed a one-year deal.

Messages from the Associated Press to Herman were not immediately returned Monday.

“(Proehl) brings a veteran guy who’s been in these December and January big games,” Dungy said. “A slot receiver who knows how to get open and make tough catches. I think he’d fit into what we’re doing.”

The Colts are fresh off their best win of the season, beating the Philadelphia Eagles, 45-21 Sunday night.

However, the win might have cost them tight end Dallas Clark, who hurt his right knee after catching a pass in the first half. Clark was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday.

Stokley has appeared in just two games, most recently Oct. 8 against Tennessee, when he sprained his left knee.

Bengals

Running back Chris Perry had surgery Monday for a broken right leg.

Perry suffered the season-ending broken fibula in the second quarter of a 30-0 victory in Cleveland on Sunday. Linebacker Andra Davis landed on his lower leg while tackling him at the end of a run. Perry needed a pin inserted to help the bone heal correctly.

A first-round draft pick out of Michigan in 2004, Perry has been sidelined for much of his career by injuries. He missed most of his rookie season because of a hamstring injury and a hernia.

A sprained ankle forced him to miss a couple of games last year, when he ran for 279 yards and caught 51 passes. Perry had ankle and knee operations in the offseason, and missed the first five games of 2006. He had 10 carries for 57 yards and nine catches for 42 yards before the injury.

Jaguars

Defensive injuries finally caught up with the team, but it wasn’t the absence of linebacker Mike Peterson, defensive end Reggie Hayward and safety Donovin Darius against Buffalo on Sunday.

It was playing without starting cornerback Brian Williams and backup Terry Cousin. Without them, rookie Dee Webb made his first career start and made three crucial mistakes in a 27-24 loss.

“He did some good things,” coach Jack Del Rio said Monday. “He had a couple of critical errors. It wasn’t a good performance. The critical errors aside, it was very solid. But there were a couple of critical errors.”

Webb, a seventh-round draft pick from Florida, had his first career interception on Buffalo’s second possession. But he promptly fumbled the return, giving the ball right back and essentially creating a 28-yard gain for the Bills.

On the next series, J.P. Losman threw deep to Lee Evans on third-and-5 from near midfield. Webb was beaten on the play and then flagged for pass interference. The 43-yard penalty set up a short field goal that made it 10-0.

On the next drive, Webb didn’t recognize a running play and followed Evans across the middle of the field, creating a huge backside hole. McGahee ran nearly untouched for a 30-yard score and a 17-7 advantage.

Lions

Coach Rod Marinelli was emphatic Monday when asked if he would start using younger players with an eye toward the 2007 roster.

“The guys that are going to play are the guys that have earned the right to play,” he said. “We’re thinking about this week, not next year.”

Marinelli was specifically asked about replacing quarterback Jon Kitna with Josh McCown. Kitna has turned over the ball 18 times in 11 games, including 13 interceptions, and has thrown only 12 touchdown passes.

He’s also been sacked 44 times, including eight in the Thanksgiving Day loss to Miami.

“Jon Kitna has done a tremendous job of dealing with the pressure and making plays,” he said. “There are some things where being a good athlete isn’t enough.”

The Lions are one defeat away from their sixth straight 10-loss season.

Redskins

Vernon Fox intercepted Jake Delhomme’s first pass, and Sean Taylor picked off the last one. From start to finish, the defense finally played a solid full game.

“I don’t know why it took so long,” defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin said Monday. “But guys finally came together and played team ball.”

Some players credited coach Joe Gibbs for setting the tone with a forceful speech, followed by practices that were more physical. Others were motivated by a magazine article in which an anonymous player launched searing attacks against assistant coach Gregg Williams. And Williams did his part by tinkering with the game plan before Sunday’s 17-13 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Still, it was hard to believe the stark difference in the level of play after 10 poor outings.

Carlos Rogers, a liability in coverage all year, was steady. Taylor, another major disappointment this season, made an open-field, fourth-down tackle on the drive before his game-clinching interception. Fox’s interception was his first since 2002. Shawn Springs, healthy after abdominal and groin injuries, was chiefly responsible for holding Steve Smith to a season-low 34 yards receiving. Middle linebacker Lemar Marshall had eight tackles, his most since Week 1. Defensive end Andre Carter had a season-high four tackles and two quarterback hurries.

For the first time all season, the opponent didn’t have a pass play of 20 yards or more – the Redskins have allowed a league-high 41. Overall, the defense is no longer ranked last in the NFC, having moved one spot ahead of Arizona.

Vikings

The Vikings have won exactly one game in the last five weeks. They have shown flaws all over the field, from an offense that has to scratch and claw to score points to a defense that gives up yards through the air by the truckload.

Yet there they sit, after Sunday’s 31-26 victory over Arizona, one game out in the NFC playoff race.

“We’re still in it,” cornerback Antoine Winfield said Monday.

The Chicago Bears (9-2) may have a stranglehold on the NFC North, but the Vikings (5-6) are just behind Carolina and the New York Giants for the two wild-card spots.

“I’m never surprised by anything in this league,” right tackle Mike Rosenthal said. “Anything can happen. I’m never surprised when guys have big games. I’m never surprised when a team loses that shouldn’t.”

The Vikings the next two weeks visit Chicago and Detroit. They come home to face the Jets, then finish the season at Green Bay and home against St. Louis. The combined record of the last four teams on that list heading into Monday was 17-26, so there is reason for optimism.

Rams

Rookie DE Victor Adeyanju will be sidelined as long as a month with a fractured right forearm, although the team is hopeful he’ll return before the end of the season.

Adeyanju, a fourth-round pick, moved into the starting spot in the third game after Anthony Hargrove skipped two days of practice and meetings and was subsequently traded. Brandon Green, who finished Sunday’s 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at right end, will make his second career start next week against the Cardinals.

Adeyanju, was hurt in the first quarter when he was hit by a 49ers player’s helmet.


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