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Panthers Watch 2009: Carolina gaining momentum in spite of Jake Delhomme

I was searching through the pictures available to us following today's Panthers victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and this picture might actually provide the best explanation for any Panthers wins this season: Delhomme benefiting from somebody else's performance, because he certainly isn't gonna win it for them.  Nonetheless, the Panthers Watch is taking a turn for the "ugly" as the Panthers have improved to 2-3.  As always, an explanation for those unsure of why they're reading about the Panthers here: The 49ers hold Carolina's 2010 first round pick.  Win or lose, Carolina's season holds value to 49ers fans.

Week 6 - at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
During Carolina's bye week I put together a rundown of the rest of their schedule with projected wins and losses.  In that projection I had the Panthers winning this game, as I did last week's game against Washington.  And once again they had to battle down to the wire to pull out the victory.  After Carolina's big comeback against Washington last week I wasn't expecting Tampa Bay to hang close this week.  However, the Bucs' defense and special teams, along with Jake Delhomme, kept them fighting to the end.

After a rather slow first half, Carolina jumped up 21-7 and even in the game day thread I figured Tampa didn't have the offense to hang in the game.  And I was right about half that statement.  They didn't have the offense to stick around.  Instead, they ran back a kickoff for a touchdown and then ran back a Delhomme interception for another touchdown.  A second Delhomme interception could have meant the lead in this game, but the Bucs offense just couldn't convert.  Carolina ran a 16-play drive at the end of the game, capped off by a DeAngelo Williams touchdown with 29 seconds left to win the game.  Carolina might have actually figured out the key to success for them: on that final drive Delhomme attempted and completed 1 pass (a 4-yard pass to Steve Smith).  He finished 9/17 for 65 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions.  So, in spite of Jake Delhomme, the Panthers won.  47 rushes for 262 yards by your running backs will do that for you.

Week 7 - vs. Buffalo
In my predictions I decided to go with a Buffalo upset in this game.  Coming off ugly, but HUGE win at the Jets, I'm really not sure what to think of them.  They went into the Meadowlands and stunned the Jets, in large part by making Mark Sanchez look like the rookie he is.  Can they do the same against a "veteran" like Delhomme?  Carolina has generated some momentum for themselves, while Buffalo remains a riddle wrapped in an enigma.  This is the type of game folks in Vegas wouldn't touch with a 10-foot poll.  The good news for 49ers fans is that after this game, the Panthers face a tough five game stretch that could bury them.  At this point, vs. Miami and vs. Tampa Bay are the closest to potential wins.  I could see some upsets elsewhere, but it's a tough road the rest of the way.