CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Nov. 19, 2006) -- Who knew that weekly steak dinners would be the cure to Carolina's defensive struggles?
The Panthers came into the season feeling they had the best defense in the league. But Carolina struggled with injuries and chemistry. The problems magnified when Dallas scored 25 fourth-quarter points in a game three weeks ago.
Safety Mike Minter called a players-only meeting a few days later, suggesting all defensive players meet for dinner each Thursday night.
Mike Rucker had two sacks, including one for a safety with 2:24 left, while former Ram Damione Lewis and Chris Draft each had 1½ sacks for Carolina, which tied a team record for sacks in a game.
"I don't know if (the dinners) are the magic formula, but they are a piece of the puzzle," Rucker said. "It's harder for me to shut down on you if I know you personally. I think it makes me play harder if I know you personally."
"Any back in the country that was in the backfield could have been in the backfield for us today would have rushed for 100 yards," Williams said. "They were just doing that good of a job up front."
Bulger was 19 of 34 for 142 yards and two interceptions, while the Rams (4-6) dropped five passes -- three by Isaac Bruce, who left in the fourth quarter with blurry vision.
On 12 possessions, the Rams had nine punts, an interception, a fumble and a safety as they finished with 111 yards. All from a team that was averaging more than 22 points a game.
"For us to come in and put up a dismal performance like that is very humbling," said running back Steven Jackson, who was held to 27 yards on seven carries.
Carolina's banged up secondary was never threatened despite being without starting cornerback Ken Lucas (thigh). Rookie Richard Marshall started opposite Chris Gamble.
"We held a team like that, with all their weapons, to 15 points. You would think you could win a game, but we came out and pitched a goose egg," Holt said.
The Panthers led 3-0 late in the second quarter when Delhomme lofted a deep pass down the left sideline. Smith extended his arm to create some space against Oshiomogho Atogwe, caught the ball at the 15, and beat Corey Chavous to the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown.
Smith appeared to injure his left shoulder early in the third quarter. After being helped off the field, Smith vomited in the trash can -- the second straight week he was sick during a game. Smith returned on the next series, had four catches for 90 yards.
The Panthers, who came in averaging 92.3 yards rushing per game, dominated despite losing Foster in the second quarter to an elbow injury. X-rays were negative, but Foster, who had nine carries for 63 yards, did not return.
Delhomme was 13 of 25 for 191 yards and an interception. He was sacked twice by La'Roi Glover.
Notes: Keyshawn Johnson had eventful back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter. After catching a pass over the middle, Johnson tried to stiff arm rookie cornerback Tye Hill, but ripped off his helmet and was called for a 15-yard face mask penalty. On the next play the Panthers tried a trick play, but Johnson's pass for Smith was badly underthrown and intercepted -- by Hill. ... The Rams' last shutout loss was 14-0 Miami in Oct. 1998. ... The Rams wore white pants for the first time since they moved from Los Angeles.