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saintz08 10-27-2003 11:08 PM

Home in the Dome

At home in the Dome

Delhomme enjoys homecoming vs. N.O.

Monday October 27, 2003

By Jim Rapier
Staff writer

It seems like Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme has spent his college and professional football careers making up for something he never got to do in high school.

Delhomme, from Breaux Bridge, never got the chance to play at the Superdome for a state championship when he attended Teurlings Catholic High School. But he made some big plays at the Superdome in college when he played for the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and later for the Saints.

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Delhomme was at it in the Dome again on Sunday, this time for the Panthers, who he led to a 23-20 overtime victory over the Saints.

"It was nice to come here, nice to see family members, and it was nice to come to the Superdome," Delhomme said. "Growing up playing high school in Louisiana, it is your dream to play in the Superdome. We lost in the semifinals my senior year."

Delhomme has made just enough plays, at the Superdome and everywhere else, to help Carolina to a 6-1 record and a two-game lead in the NFC South. Delhomme's play is not heart-stopping or flashy, but it works for the Panthers. He completed 12 of 27 passes for 148 yards and no touchdowns -- but also no interceptions and no fumbles.

"We're trying not to put the whole game in his (Delhomme) hands," Carolina coach John Fox said. "When people are loading up to stop that run, he's got to make some throws. I thought he made enough throws today to keep them off of us."

Fortunately for Delhomme, his first pass of the game was not an indicator of things to come. He dropped back in his end zone to pass and appeared wrapped up for a sack and safety when he slightly turned and blindly whipped a pass toward the middle of the field. It fell incomplete, close enough to a receiver to avoid an intentional grounding penalty and two points for the Saints.

"I knew where the route was going on the play," Delhomme said. "Fred (Thomas) hit me, and I knew it would be a safety. I could buffalo you, but I just got rid of it (the ball) and hoped someone was in the vicinity."

Delhomme was more on the mark the rest of the game, especially on third-down plays. He completed a 22-yard pass to Kris Mangum on third down to set up a Carolina touchdown in the second quarter, and he completed a 17-yard pass to Steve Smith on third down to help set up a field goal in the third quarter.

When it came to producing a game-winning drive in overtime, the Panthers were confident Delhomme could do it. He threw one pass for 8 yards to Smith on the drive, but it was good for a first down.

"Jake always stays level-headed," Panthers running back DeShaun Foster said. "He is a true competitor and a hard-nosed quarterback. You have to respect him for that."

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