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Delhomme Ruins It for Del Rio

September 08, 2003|From Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jake Delhomme ran into the Carolina Panthers' huddle, fists pumping and words of encouragement flying. It was his first chance to be the starting quarterback, and Delhomme wasn't going to blow it.

Delhomme replaced an ineffective Rodney Peete at the start of the second half and energized the Panthers with a pep talk and three touchdown passes -- the last with 16 seconds to play -- to rally the Panthers to a 24-23 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Sunday's opener.

"He came in and kind of gave everyone a high-five and said, 'We're going to win the game,' " receiver Muhsin Muhammad said. "We had no doubts in our mind after that."

The Panthers trailed, 17-0, when Delhomme came in, but he never panicked, not even facing fourth and 11 on the Jaguar 12 with time ticking away.

With the defense closing in, he found Ricky Proehl, another off-season acquisition, in the left corner of the end zone for the winning score.

As the Panthers celebrated, first-year Coach Jack Del Rio -- Carolina's defensive coordinator a year ago -- slumped his shoulders but wouldn't allow the Jaguars to quit.

Quarterback Mark Brunell quickly moved the Jaguars downfield, setting up rookie Seth Marler's 55-yard field goal try as time expired. But Mike Minter blocked the kick.

Del Rio bristled when asked what the Panthers did to stop his team.

"You mean my scheme?" he said, referring to the Carolina defense he helped build. "I'm not going to get into specifics. It's the same scheme that stopped our run game."

The Panthers gave up 331 yards, but only 75 on the ground.

Stephen Davis marked his first game as Carolina's featured running back with 111 yards rushing.

Delhomme, who spent the last five years as a backup in New Orleans, completed 12 of 20 passes for 122 yards with two interceptions. He threw touchdown passes of 13 yards to Muhammad and 24 yards to Steve Smith.

Brunell finished 23 for 27 -- at one point completing 13 consecutive passes -- for 272 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Lewis late in the fourth quarter to put Jacksonville ahead, 23-18.

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