End of Game
The Panthers stopped running the ball in the second half, and the team stopped moving the ball. D.J. Hackett's fumble in S.D. territory led to a Chargers touchdown.
Is a star emerging? The best TE on the field today wasn't Antonio Gates -- it was Dante Rosario. Rosario finished with 96 yards receiving on 7 catches, the most crucial coming on a 4th down reception with two seconds left for a touchdown to win the game for the Panthers.
Delhomme spread it around to seven different receivers and finished the day 23 of 41 passing, 247 yards and one touchdown. Jonathan Steward and DeAngelo Williams ran hard, combining for 139 yards on the ground.
The Panthers held Ladanian Tomlinson to under 100 yards rushing and no touchdowns.
"It's hard to describe moments like this," Delhomme told FOX TV after the game. "My line, what a great job of giving me time at the end and guys made plays. This is a great football team we played, and to come across country ... I'm going to say it, without our best player, Steve Smith sitting at home and we can't wait for him to come back ... but the best thing we did was that we won without him, and he's going to be more proud of that than anyone else."
The Panthers lead going into halftime 9-7, but it hasn't been easy. The Panthers have racked-up 282 yards of offense but have yet to put the ball into the end zone. DeAngelo Williams leads the Panthers on the ground with 68 yards on 12 carries, meanwhile Jonathan Stewart has notched 44 yards on seven carries in his rookie debut.
Travelle Wharton went to the locker room with an injury, as did linebacker Na'il Diggs. Left tackle Jeff Otah left with a knee injury, but returned late in the second quarter.
Defensively, the Panthers have managed to hold the Chargers to 153 yards of offense, including on 33 to Ladanian Tomlinson on the ground. The Chargers scored on a long pass play to Chris Chambers after a controversial call on the previous play where it looked as if Chargers QB Phillip Rivers had crossed the line of scrimmage before completing a third and long pass. Coach John Fox challenged the play, only to have the play upheld by the officials.
Defensive end Julius Peppers has not had much of an impact as fans had hoped. Peppers has been dropping back into coverage on several instances, taking away passing lanes for Rivers to throw into.
Jake Delhomme has looked to be back into pre-injury form. Delhomme has plenty of zip and precision on his passes.
The MVP of the first half has to be either DeAngelo Williams, whose been running extremely well, or Dante Rosario, who leads the Panthers at the half with four receptions for 67 yards.
The Chargers will be without their starting center Nick Hardwick and left tackle Marcus McNeill today against the Panthers. That should mean that the Chargers will give their LT (left tackle, not Ladanian Tomlinson) some help with either their fullbacks (Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester) or TEs (Antonio Gates and Brandon Manumaleuna).
Speaking of TE, Antonio Gates is still not 100% with a toe injury, which could take one of their weapons out of the equation. With McNeill out, it means that the penchant for running the ball will be towards their right side of the line -- at Tyler Brayton / Charles Johnson , Na'il Diggs, Ken Lucas and Charles Godfrey's side of the field.
Look for Manumaleuna to get plenty of playing time helping L.J. Shelton block Julius Peppers, who has looked like he's returned to his previous form after a down 2007 campaign.
The Panthers will only dress four WRs today -- Muhsin Muhammad, D.J. Hackett, Dwayne Jarrett and KR/PR Mark Jones. Jones isn't known for being a receiver, much like former Panther Karl Hankton, so don't expect to see him line up as receiver very often.
Instead, look for the Panthers to run more 2 TE sets and possibly 2 RB sets with Stewart AND Williams on the field at the same time. Both backs are good receivers and could cause matchup problems against linebackers in coverage.
CAR at SD - Thomas' Tidbits
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