This columnist will be the first to admit that he doesn’t know a whole lot about football (the American kind). In fact this past season was the first season he took an active interest in the NFL. But to his uneducated eye, Super Bowl XXXVIII was one of the most exciting games he has ever seen (and I’m not even talking about Nipplegate). The game was set-up to be a defensive struggle, and for 90% of the first half, it looked like turning into the lowest scoring Super Bowl of all time. The offensive struggles were exemplified by Jake Delhomme who had completed 1 of 9 passes for a gain of 1 yard. Then Delhomme got sacked, the Patriots recovered the ball, and suddenly we had points on the board. Little did we know the fun was just beginning. Delhomme marched the Panthers down the length of the field to even the score. When the dust had settled after the half time whistle, 24 points had been scored in the last 3 minutes and change of the first half.
The third quarter was a repeat of the first, with neither team able to score. That was but the calm before the storm. With the fourth quarter came offensive madness, and a total of 37 points. Ultimately the game came down to a 41-yard field goal attempt in the waning second, and Adam Vinateri turned the clock back two years and showed why is may be the best clutch kicker of all time. Game, set match Patriots 32-29.
But what impressed me most about the game was the heart showed by both teams. There was no give in either side. And the one person I was most impressed with was Panthers QB Jake Delhomme.
During the build up to the big game all the talk was about the two defenses, Tom Brady, and the Panthers running game. Delhomme was an afterthought. No way Delhomme could carry the team on his shoulders. But Jake did exactly that. After his disastrous start, he literally picked his team up by its collective bootstraps and put it on his back. Three times he marched the Panthers down field in response to Patriots scores. Three times the Panthers scored, the last of which was particularly impressive, coming as it did with 68 seconds left on the clock. If the Panthers were to lose, it wasn’t going to be because of Jake.
Jake finished with 16 of 33 passes completed for 323 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Taking away his 1 of 9 start, Jake was 15-24 for 322 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the end it didn’t prove to be enough to win the game, but it did prove that Jake belongs on the big stage. Nobody is going to make the mistake of considering him a non-factor again.