Sunday's Game in Atlanta Is Absolutely Critical for the Carolina Panthers

NC Nighthawk@NC Nighthawk (my Xbox gamertag)Analyst ISeptember 18, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 13:  Quarterback Jake Delhomme #17 of the Carolina Panthers drops back to pass in the second half of the NFL season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles at Bank of America Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end for quarterback Jake Delhomme and Coach John Fox?  Are Carolina’s swagger and confidence becoming unglued?

One poor game may be an accident. Two very bad games in a row is a trend. Three consecutive pitiful performances is a significant problem.

If a fourth straight horrible performance by the starting quarterback is allowed, than the head coach’s decision-making, sanity, judgment, and job-security are all under the microscope.

"I'd like to erase any doubts," stated Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme after his Week 1 loss at home to the Philadelphia Eagles. "I don't think they have any. I really don't think they do. But I'd like to erase them if there are any at all this weekend."

Jake Delhomme may produce an emotional comeback performance from last week’s disaster, but it is more of an issue of competence and confidence with him.

Tony Gonzalez has strategically changed pass defense against the Falcons.

"Tony makes it pretty easy for a quarterback," stated Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan about newly acquired tight end Tony Gonzalez. "I just try to put the ball in a spot where he can make a play on it, and he always seems to do that."

This game is absolutely critical for the Carolina Panthers, who cannot afford another early conference loss if they want to keep their playoff potential. It will be difficult against an Atlanta defense that looked both tougher and quicker than last year in nearly shutting out the  Miami Dolphins.

Atlanta defeated Miami 19-7 for their first win of the 2009 season. QB Matt Ryan struggled early, but endured and finished with 229 yards passing and two touchdowns after completing 22 of 36 passes. 

RB Michael Turner had 22 carries for 65 yards and TE Tony Gonzalez grabbed five catches for 73 yards. Nine of the Falcons' 19 points came off Dolphins turnovers.

In his last pair of games, Delhomme has been very sloppy and committed 12 turnovers. Jake Delhomme is a turnover machine and the Atlanta defense will have a field day.

Is there a quarterback rating below 0?

After the Philadelphia Eagles defense piled up 35 fantasy football points vs. the Panthers, fantasy football players everywhere rushed to add the Falcons defense for NFL season week 2.

Despite the dramatic number of turnovers by Jake, the Panthers offensive line shares the blame by providing very little pass protection.

Carolina lost to Philadelphia 38-10. QB Jake Delhomme pitched 7 of 17 passes for 73 yards. He threw his third interception of the game on the Panthers' opening possession of the second half.

RB DeAngelo Williams had 14 carries for 37 yards with one TD, while catching four passes for 42 yards.

My forecast is not good for Carolina as Atlanta rolls to a 30-17 divisional win. 

Will this loss be the beginning of the end for both Jake Delhomme and Coach John Fox in Charlotte?

Stay tuned. Same Panther-time.  Same Panther-channel.

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