Delhomme: "We're close on some good things"

Week 3. This is where it all began to go downhill for the Carolina Panthers in 2004. Like last year, the Panthers started the season with an unexpected loss at home but bounced back to beat a good team. Last year, it was the Kansas City Chiefs, this year, the New England Patriots. But the Panthers are hoping the rest of the season doesn't reflect what began in Week 3 of 2004, when the team began a six-game losing streak to fall to 1-7 at the midpoint of the season.

The Panthers did eventually get on track, winning six of their final eight games, but still missed the playoffs by one game.

When a reporter reminded head coach John Fox of that fact that the team's troubles started in week three last year, and asked whether he intended to remind them of that fact, Fox replied sarcastically, "No, we're just kind of let them float down the street and do whatever they want."

Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme hasn't forgotten how quickly things changed last season.

But then, as Delhomme points out, the Panthers are a much healthier team than when they entered Week 3 last season.

For one, they've got running back Stephen Davis back, and apparently almost fully healthy, as evidenced by his four rushing touchdowns in two games. And while they've lost defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, wide receiver Steve Smith is still healthy and looking sharp.

"Every year is different," Delhomme said. "Every week is different. Every game is different. Last year, we had some nicks and bruises early on. I think we're in a better state of health this year and I think we're a better team this year. But still, we're just average right now. We're 1-1 and we'll try to build off what we did this past weekend."

One area of concern for the Panthers is that Delhomme still hasn't hit his stride.

Through two games he's completed 52.6 percent of his passes for 366 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, including one that was returned for a score by Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel this past Sunday.

Delhomme's passer rating is 56.6 ranks 29th in the league, ahead of only Joey Harrington, David Carr and Daunte Culpepper.

But Delhomme is optimistic the team's passing game is making strides.

"We're close. We're close on some good things," he said. "We could have completed more passes and all of that. Sometimes things just weren't there or I made bad throws. But that's part of it. The big thing was that when we needed to make plays in the passing game, we did. You look at our third-down percentage, we had a couple of big conversions.

"We hit that big one to Ricky Proehl that led to a field goal. We did some good things in the passing game, and certainly we need to do a little better."

It should also be noted that Delhomme has led five touchdown drives this season, four of them ending with Davis touchdown runs.

So it's not as though Carolina's offense is not moving the football and scoring. The Panthers have scored 57 points in two weeks.

There would probably be more concern over the lack of a passing game if the Panthers didn't have a win over the Patriots under their belts. That makes Carolina's 1-1 mark look better than your average .500 team.

"As the quarterback, I need to be the one to do things better," Delhomme said.

Fox compared Delhomme's performance on Sunday to that of a baseball pitcher who simply didn't have his best stuff.

"Sometimes you have a bad couple of innings or a bad day out," Fox said. "(But) Jake made some great throws. One comes to mind that was a 13-yard gain to get us in field-goal range. ... Another was a long throw down the middle to Ricky Proehl that went to the 1, and that was an excellent throw."

Fox isn't too worried about Delhomme's play.

"The one thing you can say about this league is if you haven't thrown a bad one, you haven't played," Fox said. "The one thing I can say about Jake is he came back and played well enough for us to win."

SERIES HISTORY: 3rd meeting. Dolphins lead series 2-0. Miami has won both previous meetings, the last coming at Pro Player Stadium on Nov. 4, 2001. The Dolphins won that game 23-6.

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