Panthers QB Matt Moore 'feeling way better,' will start Sunday if recovered from concussion

Carolina Panthers coach John Fox has no plans to turn to rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen just yet.

Three end zone interceptions and a lost fumble won't be enough for Matt Moore to lose his starting job — as long as he's recovered from a concussion in time for Sunday's home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Fox said Moore was "feeling way better" on Monday, a day after he was knocked out of the game and sent to the hospital for evaluation following a hard, blind-side hit by Osi Umenyiora in the final minutes of the New York Giants' 31-18 win. But Fox said he may have suffered the concussion on the previous drive, when he lost a fumble after a hard hit by Mathias Kiwanuka, one of four times Moore was sacked.

"I think he landed on the back of his head on a fumble play," Fox said. "But I don't know that for a fact."

It marked the second straight year of poor quarterback play in Week 1 for the Panthers. And just like last year, when Fox stuck with Jake Delhomme after five turnovers against Philadelphia, Fox provided no hesitation when asked if Moore would start against the Buccaneers if healthy.

"Yes," Fox said, defusing talk the Panthers might quickly turn to Clausen.

But Moore, who didn't speak to reporters Monday, will have to pass numerous mandated tests under stricter concussion rules to be allowed back on the field, making it possible Clausen could make his first NFL start in Week 2.

"I'm ready to go," Clausen said. "Obviously, Matt is day to day right now. I'm going to prepare just like I prepared last week."

The former Notre Dame star, who fell to the Panthers in the second round of the draft, threw two incomplete passes from his own end zone with Carolina trailing by two scores in the final moments of Sunday's loss after Moore was sidelined.

"It was a tough situation, but that's what we get paid to do," Clausen said.

Fox said he'd be confident if Clausen had to play against Tampa Bay.

"That would be my expectation at any position with any backup," Fox said. "He's part of the football team and whether it's injury or whatever, we expect them to step him and do a good job."

Moore, who finished 4-1 as a starter last season when Delhomme was sidelined with a broken finger, got off to a poor start in his first to open a season. He tossed an ill-advised, floating pass into a sea of Giants players in the end zone on Carolina's second possession for an interception.

His best work came on a 2-minute drive at the end of the first half, when he completed 4 of 5 passes for 50 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith to give Carolina a 16-14 halftime lead.

But the Panthers' only points in the second half came on a safety, and Moore threw two more picks in the end zone. He finished 14 of 33 for 182 yards and a passer rating of 32.6 while facing constant pressure.

"We didn't execute well enough in the pass game," Fox said. "I thought there were opportunities, but there are a lot of moving parts to the pass game. We had some issues in a lot of different areas, whether it was protection, routes or where we went with the ball. We've got to do a better job with that. We've got to do a better job coaching and executing it."

It would help if Carolina got its vaunted running game in gear. The Panthers, who watched Jonathan Stewart rush for 206 yards against the Giants last season, managed just 89 yards on the ground on Sunday.

They also abandoned the run for much of the second half — throwing three straight times on a first-and-goal from the 4 in the fourth quarter Sunday. The last pass was picked off.

"I don't know if everybody understands, but defenses can dictate that some," Fox said. "It's not all just that we want to throw. Sometimes the situation in a game, in a fourth quarter down 15 points, ripping off a 4-yard run is not really conducive to trying to win the game."

Notes: Ex-Panthers KO specialist Rhys Lloyd posted on Twitter Monday that he was flying to Charlotte. Todd Carter (back) was injured on Sunday, making it possible Lloyd could return. ... LS J.J. Jansen said a wet ball "just slipped out of my hand" on a punt snap that gave the Giants great field position before their touchdown to go up 24-16. It was the first bad snap in Jansen's two seasons with Carolina. "Hopefully, there won't be too much more to write about me from here on forward," Jansen said.