Carolina Panthers Prove They Have What It Takes To Be a Playoff Contender

Chris PistoneCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2008

Yesterday afternoon, the Carolina Panthers defeated the Denver Broncos, 30-10, getting themselves one step closer to clinching a playoff spot. More importantly, however, the Panthers proved yesterday that they have what it takes to be a playoff contender this season.

Throughout the season, they've had their ups and downs. They shocked everyone by beating San Diego and Chicago the first two weeks of the season, only to shock everyone again by losing to the Vikings

They played great games against every team but Tampa Bay and the aforementioned Vikings before their bye, only to return by playing terribly against Oakland and Detroit.

After those two games, people became skeptical of the Panthers' winning record.  Countless articles were written (on Bleacher Report, among other sites) questioning whether the Panthers were winning because they were playing bad teams. They would prove themselves, these articles said, by showing they could win in the toughest six weeks of their schedule.

After a loss to Atlanta, where the Panthers started playing very well too late in the game, things looked questionable. They then beat Green Bay in Green Bay, and destroyed Tampa Bay with their running game.

The skeptics then turned to Delhomme and the pass game. Sure, the Panthers' running game was looking unbelievably great, but Delhomme's QB performance had not been great (or even very good, for that matter) for a few games. Could the Panthers overcome a QB that threw a couple of interceptions in nearly every game in the playoffs?

Jake Delhomme gave skeptics their answer on Sunday, but in a way that they probably weren't expecting. I'm actually still wondering if Eli Manning showed up yesterday wearing Delhomme's jersey to play the game for him.

Okay, comparing him to Eli is taking a little far, but for all but one or two plays, Delhomme did not even look like Delhomme. He was scrambling efficiently, throwing the ball away instead of taking sacks, and just simply not making the same mistakes he seems to make over and over again.

He went 17-26 for 253 yards with one TD and one interception (which was not a typical Jake Delhomme interception—the ball was tipped). That may not seem too spectacular (especially against Denver's No. 27 pass defense), but as Jake likes to remind people: it's not about the numbers.

Those numbers may not look excellent, but Delhomme definitely did. I guess the question now becomes will Jake be able to play like he did on Sunday consistently? The Panthers' game against the Giants next week will be the perfect test.