SPARTANBURG -- Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme knows there are folks who get upset when he throws an interception.
For those people, Delhomme had a simple message Sunday.
"That's part of it, that's the deal," Delhomme said flatly. "And you know what, there's going to be interceptions. Get ready for it, write that down. That's inevitable."
Picks like the one he authored in Friday's preseason loss at Philadelphia are simply part of the package with Delhomme. Feeling pressure from what he termed "an all-out blitz," Delhomme aired one out off his back foot. It landed softly in the arms of Philadelphia cornerback Lito Sheppard, who returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
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Delhomme's gun-slinging style has always included the possibilities for such dramatic plays, but it tends to favor him on the other side of the equation. He's thrown 92 career touchdowns along with his 63 picks, a 1.46 ratio not out-of-whack with the rest of the league. He sits 18th among the league's 32 projected starters in that category, in a clump of similar quarterbacks. Chad Pennington, Trent Green, Daunte Culpepper, Brett Favre, Steve McNair and Tony Romo all have such numbers between 1.56 and 1.46, putting Delhomme squarely in the middle of the road when it comes to offering it up to the other side.
To hear his critics, all Delhomme does is give it away.
He heard it the most last year, when he threw 11 interceptions, with several coming at disastrous times (Washington, Philadelphia and Cincinnati spring to mind). But he also threw 17 touchdowns in 13 games, and can stack up enough stats in his favor to balance the ledger.
He's 35-25 in the regular season since taking over as the Panthers' starter in 2003, with a 5-2 postseason record. Of those 40 wins, 14 have come when the Panthers trailed in the fourth quarter, or in overtime.
That's much of the reason the Panthers aren't freaking out over Friday's performance. Delhomme seemed perplexed when peppered with questions about the Panthers' offensive shortcomings against the Eagles, and Panthers coach John Fox didn't seem particularly hysterical either.
"Any time you get into a situation where you are behind, you can get one-dimensional," Fox said. "We went into the game wanting to look at some drop-back stuff and see where we were, and we obviously have work to do. You never like turnovers, and we had three of them (as a team). That's an area we have to improve."
Delhomme admitted he was throwing the ball "blind, with them bringing the pressure, throwing to a point, and I didn't get enough on it."
He also got his back up a bit at the talk, emphasizing the number of plays he's made in similar situations, most of them in the direction of Steve Smith. He said if Sheppard hadn't sat on a route, "Smitty fair catches it and walks into the end zone."
"The guy guessed right," Delhomme said. "Let's give him a little credit."
Delhomme also knows that's more than he'll get today when the sports talk show circuit cranks up. He knows people have been trying to give his job away -- to Chris Weinke and David Carr in particular -- for years, but he knows that's part of his job.
He said he learned that from mentor Kurt Warner in NFL Europe, before either of them hit it big here.
"If he threw a pick, it was like, 'All right, we got to go back out there and sling it,'" Delhomme said. "That's the way he was. You can't let that affect your confidence. You've got to go out there and play. I think for the most part, we've done all right here, we've done OK throwing the football."
That confidence is a necessary commodity when you play the way Delhomme plays. There are other quarterbacks, ones in safer West Coast systems that take fewer chances downfield, who'll always have cleaner stat lines. His defenders also point to the plays he's made, and suggest the reward is generally worth the risk. Keeping the risk minimized is the challenge of the rest of the offense, and is much of the reason they've worked so hard to beef up his protection and the running game.
Even though the conventional wisdom on Delhomme around the league is that if you throw enough pressure at him, he'll lob one up, he accepts that as a challenge.
"That's one thing I never, ever, ever worry about," he said. "If a defensive coordinator doesn't do that to a quarterback, he's not worth anything. Certainly, we've made some huge plays on pressures. And we have, even already in camp, things our defense brings and stuff of that nature. But as a quarterback, you welcome a blitz, you want that. That's when you get big plays.
"I play the way I play, and I've done all right with it. Certainly I'd like to have that throw back, but there's nothing you can do about it. It happens. That's part of it."
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