Panthers vs. Saints report card

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Jake Delhomme had a miserable start to the season with two costly interceptions, a fumble and several would-be touchdown passes that were thrown slightly out of bounds. Delhomme's first two possessions of the second half ended in interceptions, one of them on a poorly thrown sidearm pass to the sidelines. He finished the game 19-of-31 for 212 yards with one touchdown for a QB rating of 65.5.

Conversely, Steve Smith looked outstanding in his first game back from a fractured leg, catching eight passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. However, Smith and Ricky Proehl both had touchdown receptions called back near the end of the first half because they stepped out of bounds before making the play. Keary Colbert didn't play well, with only two catches for 11 yards; and surprisingly, the team deactivated receiver Rod Gardner.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Stephen Davis looked very good in his first regular season game since micro-fracture knee surgery, rushing for 81 yards on 13 carries for an impressive 6.2-yard average. Davis looked especially sharp running wide, showing good speed. He was, however, brought down from behind on a 41-yard run where he didn't seem to have the burst to take it all the way to the end zone, but made up for it on a 1-yard touchdown plunge. DeShaun Foster was equally effective, running for 41 yards on nine carries (4.6 avg). As a team, Carolina ran for 141 yards, averaged 5.6 yards per carry, and showed that this offensive line has the potential to work well together. The Panthers opened the game in an odd formation with Davis, fullback Brad Hoover and running back Nick Goings together in the backfield, but never went back to it after the first three plays.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Carolina couldn't get off the field on third downs, allowing the Saints to convert 8 of 13 opportunities. That was an Achilles heel all of last season, and it reared its ugly head again on Sunday. The Panthers struggled early defending tight end Ernie Conwell (6 catches, 71 yards), who pretty much abused rookie strong safety Thomas Davis, the team's first-round draft pick. Davis was actually benched for much of the second half in favor of Marlon McCree, who took Conwell out of the game when he delivered a jarring helmet-to-helmet hit on the tight end, dislocating his jaw. The Panthers held Joe Horn in check for most of the game, but the veteran made a great move on a 25-yard reception on the final drive to set up John Carney's game-winning field goal. Brooks finished 18-of-24 for 192 yards to earn a quarterback rating of 97.9.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Panthers struggled early on, but they held Deuce McAllister to 64 yards on 26 carries, a 2.5-yard average. McAllister's longest run was 10 yards, but he did score on two short touchdown runs. Aaron Brooks ran for 32 yards and the Saints finished with 101 yards on the day. More concerning for the Panthers is they may have lost two-time defensive tackle Kris Jenkins to a knee injury. Jenkins injured his knee in the first half and then tried to come back in the second, but re-injured the knee and was helped off the field and into the locker room. At this time, the extent of the injury is unclear. The Panthers only activated three defensive tackles, so when Jenkins went down, it forced Brentson Buckner and Jordan Carstens to play almost every down.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- John Kasay showed good poise; nailing a 46-yard field goal to tie it with 1:04 left in the game. He also had a 36-yard field goal. Jason Baker's lone punt of the day sailed off the side of his foot and went for 35 yards. Carolina's return game seems to lack explosiveness, but the coverage teams played well.

COACHING: D -- There will be questions over whether Dan Henning got too conservative on the Carolina's final offensive possession. The one call that fans will be talking about is running DeShaun Foster up the middle on second-and-6 at the Saints 30. The play didn't take anyone by surprised and netted just one yard. Defensively, several players - including Julius Peppers - seemed upset that coordinator Mike Trgovac only rushed three players on occasion, something that allowed Aaron Brooks to pick apart the Carolina defense.

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