Last season, we had the privilege of watching a football team go an unprecedented 18-0. Forget the fact that this team was the Patriots and that each win was more painful to watch than the previous one (okay, so that's a tad biased—either way my reasoning behind that comment is another article entirely).
The fact remains that football fans everywhere had a chance to watch a team go 18-0 for the first time in history—something that probably won't be seen again for a while (assuming, of course, that the Titans lose a game at some point).
The Patriots played as a team. Each individual player had the team's best interest in mind, and made the necessary sacrifices to further the team. When the Patriots walked onto the field, they were no longer 22 individuals. They worked together to form one unit with one goal in mind—dominating the other team.
When one piece of the unit didn't work, the other 21 pieces would pick up its slack to keep the unit as a whole performing at 100 percent.
This season, the Carolina Panthers are playing the same way. With Delhomme back, the Panthers have been able to work together like they did back in 2003 and 2005. Each individual player is just a piece of the entire unit, and each piece does its part to make sure the unit as a whole is performing at its best.
This has been illustrated beautifully by Carolina's games against Arizona and Oakland. After completing just seven of 27 passes, and throwing four interceptions in the worst game of his ten-year career, Jake Delhomme revealed to reporters that he was thanking the defense continuously for fixing his four mistakes.
"I told a lot of defensive players, 'Thanks a lot,'" Delhomme said. "I apologized. I put them in some bad situations."
However, despite Delhomme playing worse than the dreaded Chris Weinke and David Carr, the Panthers' defense dominated the Raiders, holding them to just two field goals.
The Panthers played as a team, and when one piece of the unit (Delhomme and the offense) didn't work, the remaining pieces (the defense) picked up its slack to keep the unit as a whole performing at its best.
The Panthers' offense hasn't been the only part of the team to perform at sub-par levels. The defense has had its tough games as well, and the offense has done its part to keep the team working at 100 percent.
After hearing Delhomme apologize for his mistakes to the defense, Julius Peppers reminded Delhomme of the Arizona game.
"We all have bad games. We thanked (Delhomme) last (game) for bailing us out against Arizona. We couldn’t stop nobody last (game), and they bailed us out." Peppers said, giving a clear picture of what it looks like for a team to play as one unit.
Playing as a team is not easy. It means sacrificing things that may be important to you to benefit the team, be it personal statistics, money, or even playing time. It means putting the team first, and yourself last.
It means being excited about a game that you threw four interceptions in because your team managed to pull off a win. It means forgiving a fellow teammate for breaking your nose so that there won't be divisions on the team.
The Panthers have done a lot to prove that they can and will play as a team. And if they are able to keep this up, the next very difficult six weeks should end up being good weeks for the Panthers.