Delhomme has big day for Carolina
Published 6:48 am Monday, October 27, 2008
By By MIKE CRANSTON, AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE — Ten years ago, Jake Delhomme couldn’t beat out some guy named Kurt Warner to win the starting job for the Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe.
On Sunday, as the league staged a game in London, the two former NFL Europe castoffs held a quarterbacking clinic stateside — with Delhomme engineering a comeback that wiped out his ex-teammate’s monster day.
Delhomme threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns, including a go-ahead 65-yard score to Steve Smith, and the Carolina Panthers held off Warner’s Arizona Cardinals 27-23.
The Panthers (6-2) rallied from a 17-3 deficit to take over the top spot in the NFC South despite Warner’s 381 yards passing — by far the most given up by Carolina this season — and two touchdowns to Anquan Boldin. But the Cardinals (4-3) continued their road woes in part because of a botched fake field goal, a missed extra point, key turnovers and sloppy tackling.
Smith caught five passes for 117 yards and DeAngelo Williams rushed for 108 yards and a TD.
The Panthers improved to 5-0 at home in a game that featured a second-half shootout led by two gunslinging quarterbacks.
The aging Warner and Delhomme have come a long way from their humbling beginnings in now-defunct NFL Europe. Warner earned the starting job in Amsterdam ahead of Delhomme in 1998, a year before he became a rags-to-riches sensation in winning NFL and Super Bowl MVP honors and leading St. Louis to a championship.
Delhomme’s feel-good story took longer to develop. But after years mired on the bench in New Orleans, he signed with Carolina and led the Panthers to a Super Bowl loss in the 2003 season.
Since then, they’ve combined for four Pro Bowl appearances and two comebacks from injuries to become the key cogs of division leaders looking to end playoff droughts.
Carolina got back in it by scoring two touchdowns in 44 seconds in the third quarter, aided by Edgerrin James’ lost fumble.
Next possession, Warner fired a bullet to Boldin — in his first game following surgery to repair facial fractures — for a 2-yard score. But Dirk Johnson botched the hold on the extra point, leaving Arizona with a 23-17 lead late in the third quarter.
Then Delhomme upstaged Warner. He found Smith, who broke two tackles, tiptoed the sideline and raced 65 yards for a touchdown that withstood Arizona’s challenge that Smith stepped out of bounds.
Warner’s lone interception, a tipped pass that Jon Beason grabbed near the goal line early in the fourth quarter, led to John Kasay’s 50-yard field goal for the final margin.
It was payoff in a day of frustration for Beason and the Panthers, who entered as the NFL’s second-rated pass defense. Warner not only completed 35 of 49 passes, he made Carolina’s early blitzing moot thanks to his quick release. Larry Fitzgerald caught seven passes for 115 yards.
Williams’ 15-yard run on third-and-13 with under 2 minutes left iced it for Carolina, which overcame Delhomme’s lost fumble and Warner spreading the ball to eight different receivers.
Arizona wasted chances to take a bigger lead early. Late in the first half, Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt decided to fake a 39-yard field goal attempt on fourth-and-14. Johnson found Jerame Tuman, but he was stopped by Charles Godfrey 4 yards shy of the first down.
Rookie Tim Hightower’s 2-yard run on Arizona’s first possession of the second half made it 17-3.
Delhomme then led Carolina’s late charge.