By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
January 20, 2004

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CHARLOTTE, NC -- Similar styles and similar results.

Cool, calm controlled. Like Patriots head coach Bill Belichick that's how Panthers head coach John Fox is taking these next two weeks as his team prepares to take on the Patriots in the Superbowl on February 1st.

The world may be talking about Carolina's first ever Superbowl birth but to Fox it might as well be opening day in September. He's telling his team that this is just another away game.

"I told them that we aren't going to a Super Bowl," coach John Fox told the Charlotte media on Monday, just one day after winning their first ever NFC Championship. "We're going to an away game against the New England Patriots."

Fox reportedly kept his team's schedule as close as he could to the regular-season format as he got his team ready for the NFC Championship Game. Fox and three players were required to leave for Philadelphia on Friday to attend a league-mandated news conference. Although other coaches generally have brought their entire team with them in past years, Fox opted instead to leave the Panthers at home to do their usual Saturday morning walk through before leaving for Philadelphia.

The Panthers plan to take a similar approach this week and have an extra week between the conference title game and the Super Bowl.

The players have Tuesday off, their normal day off during the regular season.

The Panthers will reportedly hold regular practices on Wednesday and Thursday and a light one Friday. Saturday also will be a light day before the Panthers fly out to Houston on Sunday. Fox has set the schedule up to keep Super Bowl distractions to a minimum, and his plan has obviously worked out just fine for Carolina during the postseason. The Panthers didn't have much playoff experience when the postseason began, but they're getting plenty now.

They're facing a Patriots team that has plenty of players who were part of that Championship team just two seasons ago, so New England obviously has the edge from an experience standpoint.

Then again, so did St. Louis and Philadelphia. Fox's plan now is to try and stick to what's worked all year and prepare his team for another game. He's let his team know that against the Patriots they'll need to prepare just as hard as they have all season.

"We're in a race with the opponent right now," Fox said. "They're not leaving any stones unturned, so we can't either. We better get focused and do our best to prepare. We've got all this week to do it."


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