In the wake of the Panthers' dramatic win on the final play over San Diego Sunday, I wrote a column for the Sept.9 Observer about what I consider Jake Delhomme's five best comebacks, in order. This doesn't include every Panther game, so there's no Steve Beuerlein draw at Green Bay in here. It's Delhomme-focused, so it only counts from 2003 onward. Here's the link.
But Delhomme has led a lot more last-minute drives than that. I gave preference on that list to degree of difficulty (i.e. Steve Smith being out of the lineup), the significance of the game (which is why the St. Louis double-OT playoff game remains No.1 for me) and scoring a TD at the end (because if Delhomme only got them in position for a field goal, then those victories ultimately came by John Kasay's left foot). I ultimately put Delhomme's debut game vs. Jacksonville in 2003 at No.2 and the just-completed San Diego game at No.3. I put the Super Bowl at No.4 and a 2004 win over Tampa Bay at No.5.
Here were Nos.6-8 -- the "almosts but not quites" in my book. If you've got any I've forgotten or games you think I've mis-ranked, feel free to join the conversation.
No.8: Oct.1, 2006, vs. New Orleans -- Delhomme directs a 91-yard drive in the fourth quarter to put Panthers ahead for good.
No.7: Dec.14, 2003 vs. Arizona -- On the road, with the Panthers trying to get out of a tailspin during their Super Bowl year, Delhomme took the Panthers 54 yards in the final 1:09 to set up a Kasay field goal that clinched the NFC South division title for Carolina.
No.6: Nov.9, 2003 vs. Tampa Bay -- I'll always remember this game because it was back when the Panthers did some cheesy "Fan of the Game" promotion and actually handed the fan the microphone to say something. In this case, the fan called out Tampa Bay's defense -- loudly -- and the Bucs responded by suddenly roaring to life and taking a 24-20 lead. Delhomme saved the fan's hide by completing 5-of-6 attempts for 78 yards in the game-winning drive. Smith scored the TD on a 5-yarder.
I seriously considered moving this game higher and hated to leave it out of the column, but the Top 5 picks were all pretty good games, too. And in this game (as opposed to the No.5) Delhomme had Smith on his side and uninjured.