A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Week one: Panthers stun Bolts

I don't usually write much about football on these pages, but it's something to keep us occupied until the beginning of October.

Yes, I'm aware that my headline looks like a hockey game synopsis. Naturally, I did that on purpose. However, the game I'm talking about was between the NFL's Carolina Panthers and the San Diego Chargers. After leading 19-10 in the fourth quarter, Carolina fell behind 24-19 late in the game, only to win the game in dramatic fashion.

Week one of the NFL is when I'm pretty excited about football. Oh sure, like football, but by week eight, I've lost my interest. The beginning of football season signals the beginning of cooler nights and shorter days. More importantly, it means that hockey season is just around the corner.

Being a native North Carolinian, It's natural that the Carolina Panthers are my team. With a bionically rebuilt quarterback, a tandem running back situation, and a wide receiving corps made up of little-used depth guys and the ageless Muhsin Muhammad while Steve Smith rides the pine, the Panthers were hoping to run the ball a lot, chew up the clock, and depend on the defense to keep them in the game.

As it turned out, the defense did more than keep them in the game. Carolina's defense held Ladianian Tomlinson to less than 100 yards on the ground. They scored a defensive touchdown. They held the fort at some critical times.

Carolina's offense looked good early, but they were all Maxim Afinogenov-like. All Russian, no Finnish. They moved the ball down the field, but were stopped inside the one once, and settled for three first-half field goals.

Carolina added another field goal in the second half, plus a defensive touchdown, and found themselves in the driver's seat with about seven minutes to go. However, the defense gave up a touchdown, then the offense turned the ball over, leading to another touchdown just before the two minute warning.

Jake Delhomme, fresh off a Tommy John surgery, and playing without his favorite target, had to march down the field and get a touchdown. That's exactly what he did. Muhammad made some key catches. Dwayne Jarret made some key catches. The biggest of them all, though, was tight end Dante Rosario, who led all Panthers with 97 receiving yards on seven grabs.

The play straight out of a storybook. Carolina called its last timeout with 0:02 remaining and the ball on the Chargers' 14 yard-line. There are no running plays for this scenario. From the shotgun, Jake bobbled the snap, bought some time, then made a pump fake so convincing that the camera guys bought it. He sent a pass through two defenders to Rosario in the back of the endzone for the dramatic 25-24 win. The San Diego crowd fell deadly silent.

This is not how this was supposed to happen. I don't think anyone in their right mind would have predicted a Carolina win.

That game-winning drive was vintage Jake. If there were any doubts about his rebuilt shoulder, let them be cast aside. He's back. The way he led the team down the field and capped it off with a walk-off touchdown reminded me of 2003, when he stole the starting job from Rodney Peete and halftime of week one. That game ended the same way.

Rookie runningback Jonathan Stewart had a great game, as did the other half of the two-headed monster, DeAngelo Williams.

Smitty will be out for one more week, then it'll be just like 2003. Delhomme, Muhammad, Smith.

Once hockey season starts, you won't hear me go on about football anymore. Until then, I'll be doing this every Sunday.


WufPirate said...

Between seeing this game today and watching ECU burn no. 8 West VA yesterday - I've sprung off my couch in elation several times. Good weekend for football.

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