Send As SMS

The View from the Lot

Friday, September 29, 2006

Old memories

Videos by vMix Member:Fox Sports

I found this video and it reminded me of how things used to be in the old NFC West. The Rams and 49ers ruled the roost, the Panthers were the upstart contenders and the Falcons and Saints traded for turns down in the cellar.

Now here we are in 2006. The New Orleans Saints, one year removed from the near destruction of their hometown are the current leaders of the NFC South. The Atlanta Falcons are considered by many to be one of the best teams in the NFC. The Carolina Panthers are a team full of expectations and hype just trying to survive a rash of injuries and poor performance. And the former NFC rulers from Tampa Bay are heading downward towards the same abyss as their pirate brethren in Oakland.

It just does not seem right, well except for the Tampa Bay part. The Panthers can get right back into this thing with a win and help all of us in Panther Nation form some new good memories.

Wouldn't Drew Bree's look good with the backward helmet?

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Forgiven

I have to come clean about something. For quite some time, or to be more precise since Sunday February 1st, 2004, I have held on to some rather acerbic feelings about Carolina Panther placekicker John Kasay. For the entire 2003 season John had picked himself up from a player who nearly lost his job in training camp to Shayne Graham to a man who kicked a perfect 50 yard FG to bring the Panthers within four points of the New England Patriots to end the first half of Superbowl XXXVIII. But all of that came to an end with 1:08 to go in that game in Houston. After Jake Delhomme throws a go ahead touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl late in the fourth quarter, John sends a weak kickoff to the right side of the field out of bounds resulting in a penalty that starts the Patriots off at their own 40 yard line. History shows what happened after  that. Tom Brady and crew made 5 plays for 37 yards to setup an Adam Vinatieri 41 yard field goal and Pats win the Superbowl 32 to 29.

My own exaggerated enmity of Kasay is not entirely based on that night in Texas. It has nothing at all to do with the man himself. It has been about the future of John and this organization. Kasay is the last original Panther. Kasay is the all time points leader in franchise history. He has been a key component to many of the victories this team has had. He is a former pro-bowl kicker. He is a member of the Panthers 10 year team. He is the starting kicker in my money fantasy football league. On a daily basis, I have been cool with John. However John is also the prototype NFL player to the Richardson family. He is a devout Christian. He is heavily involved with the community and his family. Based on both his longevity with the team, countless clutch victories, return from major injuries and overall respect and adoration from the Carolina fans it goes without saying that in some storage room at Bank of America stadium there are a bunch of big black letters that spell out J-O-H-N  K-A-S-A-Y just waiting to be hung up on the stadium's ring of honor. I would also wager that there is some mold being fabricated to place his likeness forever on the Stonewall street sidewalk after John puts his cleats in the attic. This has been the root cause of my Kasay anxiety since that terrible kickoff in the winter of 04.

I always believed that John needed to have some momentous game to erase that memory. In my mind it was the game winning kick in an  upcoming Superbowl. However in retrospect that is setting the bar a little too high. It takes a lot more than a kicker to make it to the Superbowl. It probably starts with a quarterback who does not fumble the ball everytime he is touched and works it way from there, but I digress. Turns out that John's big event came yesterday in the sweltering central Florida sun. While most of the team was hot and cold for much of the day and let the Tampa Bay Buccaneers erase a solid 17-0 lead, John Kasay was spot on from long distance all day long. Kicks of 51, 50, 49 and 46 yards. All under intense pressure with the game on the line and John delivered them all like the Sunday paper. Tampa coach Jon Gruden had the days best quotes about John's performance

"Let's talk about Kasay, lets not send him any Christmas cards this year."

'What a performance!"

"It was a precision effort by Kasay"

"I don't like that guy. I do not like John Kasay. He has killed me before and he got me today"

His effort in Tampa Bay was not the single Superbowl winning kick heard around the world that I dreamed up. John's contribution was actually a little more heroic. It was a full day of focus and hard work that saved the Panthers season for another week. For this John has earned my forgiveness of the thing in Houston. And if anyone over in the Panthers organization needs a hand in hanging up those letters on the ring after John's calls it quits, just give me a call and I will be right over...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pewter Politics

I have always resisted mentioning anything along the lines of politics with my rants as I want to always focus on the game of football and being a fan. But sometimes the material just comes to you. Like yesterday, our own sitting President of the United States George W. Bush visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice facility, gave some advice to the team and also played a little catch with the Tampa quarterback Chris Simms. According to coach Jon Gruden the experience was quite captivating

"It's great, though, to get some advice from the president of the United States. It's a little different when the coach is telling you to do this or do that. You have the president come and give you some advice, that's something you gotta listen to," Gruden said.


"Hopefully it works. If it doesn't work out this week, he can call the president to see what happened."

To listen to Jon's spin on things, it would appear President Bush must have delivered some Knute Rockne like advice to the team as they prepare to do battle with the Carolina Panthers. Here is one nugget of wisdom from our Commander in Chief to the Pewter Pirates

"Never give up," Bush said Thursday when asked what he told the Bucs during a half-hour visit to the team's training facility near Raymond James Stadium, where the president delivered a fundraising speech to about 400 people in a VIP club area.

 Coach Gruden would not go into specifics on what else the President said. However with just 40 minutes to talk, sign autographs, go a little too crazy over Michael Pittman's bi-ceps and get back on the campaign money trails for Florida republicans Charlie Crist and Gus Bilirakis, it probably was not any more enlightening then never give up.

I wish I could have found out more on what the President had to say to the Buc's team. But then I started thinking that if he is having trouble getting a handle on the Iraq situation, how in the hell is he going to get his hands around the Tampa Bay Buc's offense? (I know, casting stones yada yada yada). However for the first time in his second term, Bush has accomplished something I am totally in favor of. He helped squander an entire day of practice for the Buc's the week they have to play the Panthers. Way to go Mr. President!!!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Losing battles in the War of 2006

It has been quite some time since Panther Nation has been able to experience the sensation of congruent loathing over a single member of the Carolina squad. In the course of one play Chris Gamble single-handedly brought back memories of Tshimanga Biakabutuka, Sean Gilbert and  George Seifert as the most despised people in town. However in post game reports John Fox has decided to take the heat for the play

"Nothing happens without me OKing it, and I OK'd it," Fox said. "In hindsight, it's a trick play I wish I had back, but that's not the way it works."

So personally I really think the coach is just covering for one of his players like a true leader does. I really do not believe for one second that John Fox would make such an outlandish decision and feel that Gamble made a  selfish call to be a hero on ESPN Sportscenter and cost his teammates the game. A friend of mine has a good breakdown of the play here  if you want to check it out. But I try to be a journalist here and I therefore must take the coach at his word that he made the call and comment accordingly.

There are always correlations between American football and great epic battles. Just watch an NFL Films production of any given game and you will see slow motion cinematic artistry combined with operatic scores to give you the sensation that an immense battle occurred on the field of play.  However individual campaigns during the course of a war are rarely about the actually combat on the battlefield. It is all about the strategic significance towards the ultimate goal of any war, victory. Yesterday in the Metrodome, John Fox made a significant strategic error that could cost him the War of 2006.

The decision to call in a trick play for his special teams return unit with lots of time on the clock and a 7 point lead on the road against a very tough opponent parallels the disastrous strategic results of the Japanese attack on the island atoll of Midway in June of 1942. Just six months after the successful raid on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Imperial Navy appeared to be an unstoppable force in the Pacific theater. Each day the Empire extended its borders in victory after victory, island after island. However a few months into the Pacific war the famous Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto decided that the entire war effort should concentrate on eliminating the rest of the American aircraft carriers. And to achieve that goal, he devised a complex plan to lure them to Midway Island. His plan was extremely optimistic and based on 'ambitious' intelligence reports that stated the US Navy had only two serviceable carriers in their fleet. He also incorrectly assumed that the American forces were demoralized by their frequents defeats over the previous six months. This caused Yamamoto to utilize deception (trick play if you will) in organizing his fleet by spreading them out so as to not alert the Americans to their massing. The result of this plan meant that none of his forces were mutually supporting of one another when the battle had begun. In essence, Yamamoto was so enthralled with the single desire to eliminate the American aircraft carrier threat that he sacrificed the goal of winning the war in order secure a single victory.

Well we can fast forward to September 17th, 2006 and see a reciprocal strategic faux pas on the part of Coach Fox. Victory is not quite in the bag, but it is in the buggy at the checkout counter. The defense is playing lights out football with Julius Peppers having a breakout day. The Vikings are forced to punt from deep in their territory. The Panther punt returner fields the ball at the 40 yard line. The book of strategy on this play would be for the return man to either sit down on the ground, or just try and get a few more yards upfield to make things easier for the offense. Instead, Fox is seemingly blinded by the notion of going in for the kill. He either directly or indirectly instructs his special teams unit to call in a lateral play for Gamble in the event he does not have a clear line of site to the endzone. One can only speculate what Fox is thinking. He has his opponent on the ropes already. Instead of continuing to run the ball and stop the run, the hallmarks of John Fox football. He decides to break with convention and call in one of the most risky plays in football, the special teams lateral pass. I have not checked the ESPN Classics schedule lately, but perhaps they recently had a replay of the 1982 Stanford vs. Cal game where the U.C. of Berkeley Bears upon fielding the kickoff in the closing seconds of the game executed 5 lateral passes that resulted in a controversial touchdown and subsequent win. Fox perhaps was so inspired The Play that he wanted to relive the moment in the Metrodome. What other reason would there be to make this call? The fourth quarter was not even half over. The Vikings defense was on their heels. The Carolina offense was not exactly perfect, but was playing well when put into decent field position scenarios due in no small part to the dual headed monster of DeAngelo Williams and DeShaun Foster with a little Keyshawn Johnson throw in for good measure. In this case Fox made the same mistake as Yamamoto. He made the tactical decision to put the game out of reach of the Vikings and ended up causing enough of a momentum shift to lose the game and perhaps the war itself.

Going back to 1942, the other thing that Admiral Yamamoto had no clue about was the fact that the Americans were starting to get pretty good as deciphering his JN-25 military communication code. They could not read each communication word for word, but they were able to determine that Midway Island was the primary target of his fleet and dispatching their FOUR active carriers in response. Admiral Chester Nimitz the overall US fleet commander was outnumbered and out gunned, but he had a solid defensive strategy and his troops did not give up in the face of adversity. There is a quote from the movie Midway which sort of dramatizes the battle at the point where the US took out the Japanese carriers Soryu, Akagi and Kaga but still had the single carrier Hiryu to contend with

Lt. Comm. Rochefort[Hal Holbrook]: Three Jap carriers sunk, Admiral. Isn't that worth a "hot diggity damn"?
Admiral Nimitz[Henry Fonda]: I'll take it under advisement. There's still one enemy carrier out there somewhere.
Lt. Comm. Rochefort: Admiral, we've already achieved a great victory. Shouldn't you call the carriers back to Pearl and out of harm's way?
Admiral Nimitz: That would be the safe course. The only problem is, I want that last carrier.

 One last trip in our virtual time machine back to 2006 and it is apparent Minnesota Viking head coach Brad Childress could lay some claim to being a descendant, or at least disciple of American naval legend Chester Nimitz.  After recovery of the ball from the Gamble mistake, the Vikings offense was held to a fourth down. With plenty of time on the clock, the Vikings could have made the chipshot field goal and trailed the Panthers 13-9. The safe and well practiced philosophy of living to fight another day. Instead the Vikings special teams unit reached into it's own handbook of deception and called for a fake kick play where PK Ryan Longwell hits another Viking for a game tying touchdown. Unlike the trick play decision of the Carolina field general, this was the correct time and place for such a call and was followed up with brilliant execution. Momentum in the game was changed and the Panthers simply could not draw up enough emotion and strength to win in overtime.

The Battle of Midway has long been credited for being the turning point of the pacific portion of World War II. It was not what caused the Japanese to lose the war as they still posed an awesome military force even after the battle. But by losing 4 of it's mainline carriers it did put the Empire in a position of weakness it did not need to be in. This is a correlation as to where the Panthers are exiting week 2. The War of 2006 has not been lost. But Carolina is 0-2 in the NFC and 0-1 in a division that has 2 undefeated teams. To say the team is in crisis would be overstating the facts. But there is a state of emergency with this team and it must respond with a victory in Tampa Bay next week before things get out of control.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Looking closely at the Morgan situation

So football talk in Charlotte has gone from Superbowl to toilet bowl after the loss to the Dirty Birds this past Sunday. As a fan it is such a body blow to have all this hype and optimism coursing through your system only to have those passionate fires doused by an icy cold bucket of mediocrity. It is however not a new sensation and actually this past Sunday got me thinking about another day back in 2003 that had very much the same feeling.

It was October 19th, 2003. The Panthers were back home to host the Tennessee Titans after an amazing 23-20 road victory against the Indianapolis Colts. The cats were a perfect 5-0 and playing in Charlotte on a beautiful October day against the 3-3 Titans. Superbowl talk began in earnest. However the game got off to a disastrous start. After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, Brad Hoover fumbled the kickoff return and the Titans recovered deep in Panther territory. They scored on the drive and pretty much never looked back en route to a 37-17 shellacking of the Panthers.

 Moreover than the defeat, my most lucid memory about that game was the fact that Dan Morgan was knocked unconscious after the second play. He was diagnosed with a concussion later in the week but was cleared to play the following game against the New Orleans Saints on October 24th. In that game he was taken out again with what some called another concussion or what Dan himself called Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) from the previous week. Dan also said he decided to play in the victory against the Saints because he had never had a concussion before and did not know what the symptoms were.

So ok, lets just take Dan at his word and agree that prior to October of 2003 he never had any sort of significant head trauma. And I will even take him at his word that he did not actually suffer another concussion in the New Orleans game on that collision with Joe Horn. But I cannot escape the fact that if the trauma in the Titans came was severe enough to actually cause PCS, it should at the very least count as 2 concussions. We then move to the 2004 season where Dan was again knocked out of the October 31st loss to the Seattle Seahawks and diagnosed with concussion number three. And now we come to the home opener last Sunday and he is faced with concussion number four that we know about.

There are many who are looking over at Will Witherspoon now with the St Louis Rams saying that the Panthers messed up by giving Morgan the big contract and not him. But according to Pat Yasinskas blog it was more of a case of Dan coming to the table first to make a deal

Since second guessing seems to be the most popular sport in Charlotte this week, let’s do some more. The other popular bit of revisionist history that’s getting lots of play is the fact the Panthers kept linebacker Dan Morgan and let Will Witherspoon go. You can make a very strong argument that was a mistake. But just so you understand how it happened: The Panthers were talking contract extension with both linebackers during training camp last year. Offers were on the table to both and Morgan happened to be the first to accept, and that pretty much ended any chance of Witherspoon re-signing. The Panthers were going to pay big money to only one linebacker, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they paid the right one.

I do not think anyone can honestly look at the decision to sign Morgan as one based in ineptitude. It was a risk based assessment by Marty Hurney and the front office. On the one hand you have player, who in college was injury free, get a few concussions and ham string issues in his history with the Panthers. On the other you have this guy who defensively makes tons of plays and it always around the ball. In hindsight we can all see as clear as day that the concussions and extended absence during to the PCS were probably an early indication that things are only going to get worse for him. If you are hell bent on trying to assess blame for his continued tenure with the team, it would better be directed towards the medical staff who keep clearing him to play.

But as a certain NFL head coach is fond of saying, it is what it is. To me the reality of the Morgan situation is that he is a liability to himself and the team if he continues to play this game. Consistency is the key to championships and it is hard to get there when the status of your middle linebacker is in question each week. The team needs to begin looking forward to who the next full time starter is going to be at the position. For Dan, he has a life of family and prosperity that could vanish into the painful realm of disability with one more violent shake of the noggin. His love of the game and toughness can not be questioned by anyone. However to truly show himself to be a man of honor and commitment to his family, his fans and his team he needs to make the toughest call of all. The call of retirement from football as a player.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Insomnia, the farm and those Dirty Birds

Part of the reason this blog exists is that I am a morning insomniac. I have no problem going to sleep. I can hit the pillow under a medical exam room light and a tornado moving in on the homestead and fall fast asleep within 30 seconds. But when that clock hits 4:47am I am up like someone doused me with a bucket of ice water. Being up hours before just about everyone else always gets you thinking about things. Like this morning as I am ascending the stairs en route to my office I started think what if today was Sunday September 10th, 1978? Just what in the heck would I be doing at 5 o'clock in the AM 28 years ago?

Well for starters I would probably be a lot less worried about the visiting Atlanta Falcons. Instead of the athletic Michael Vick and his mystery backup Matt Schaub at the quarterback position there was Steve Bartkowski and June Jones.  The Falcons running attack of 1978 was a little more subdued in the form of Bubba Bean and Haskel Stanback who rushed for a combined 1295 yards at 3.3 yards per carry. Catching the passes from Bartkowski were receivers Wally Francis, Billy Ryckman, Alfred Jackson along with tight end Jim Mitchell. Now I do not want to say this team sucked because it was one of those extremely rare Atlanta playoff teams which actually won a wildcard game before losing to the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional game. But my mouth would be salivating to see the current Carolina Panthers take on the 78 Falcons.

I would not be writing a blog entry because even if I did have a computer, it would only be good for taking up the same space of my rear projection 55" Toshiba television and allowing me to publish  my writings in the form of paper printouts from some ancient Epson dot matrix printer that would wake up the neighborhood. And then I would have to dash around town and drop off a copy at each of your doorsteps like the morning newspaper. That would seriously cut into tailgating time.

Even if I were inclined to turn on the television, it would not have been to endless repeats of ESPN Sportscenter and NFL Network Total Access. If I was lucky one of the stations may have actually kept their transmitter on all night so I could watch the looping American flag and listen to the national anthem until the rest of the house awakens. And no DVR option because in 1978 it does not exist and VCR's are still out of my price range.

I imagine given my same set of sleeping habits the best line of work for me in 1978 would have been on the farm. Instead of sitting here at my desk with a Diet Black Cherry Vanilla Coke typing words in cyberspace I could be out in my barn collecting some fresh eggs from my hens and picking out the two I am going to kill off and clean up for today's tailgate feast. I could also have saved the trip to Costco to get the ribs and side of beef I am cooking up today as I would have just rounded up a healthy steer from my back 400 acre range two weeks ago, slaughtered it and hung up the sides in the cold beef store. Yesterday all I would have had to do was cut off the parts I wanted to cook and prepared them. Mmmm, wonder if it is too late to get a farm?

Well the sun is starting to peek up and now it is time to get cleaned up and ready for the game. I am glad that I do not have to spend the morning scrambling around the barn trying to get some chicken necks under my axe head. The Panthers should be able to take care of those Dirty Birds for me.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

And sometimes you just got to let them go

As I am spending the early hours of this Saturday morning reading through all the NFL news, I cannot help but notice the widgets staring at me on any given sports based website that point towards the story about Stephen Davis (wearing a Panther uniform) signing with the St Louis Rams. Personally I am insouciant in regards to this headline. 

I appreciated all that Stephen did for this team and will never abase his contribution to the 2003 Superbowl run. But I have never lost sight of what he was for the Panthers. A free agent acquisition to fill a need. Apropos of the modern day NFL, we as fans should be careful about who we assign loyalty towards in regards to the players. A player like Davis came in as a hired gun. The coaching staff and the team got what they needed out of him and then made the decision to go another way. The Rams are now hiring him to feel the veteran spot vacated by Marshall Faulk. I wish Big Country all the best in his career. 

But the one thing this news did accomplish was to get me a little nostalgic of some of the players who have come and gone in years past. On the current roster we have at least one player that I feel that if he chose to depart for free agency would incite a lot of passion. That is Julius Peppers. For the most part I do not think we have seen any one former Panther player approach the level of city wide acceptance and love that former Charlotte Hornet Alonzo Mourning received. When he was forced out of town by the weasel George Shinn it laid the seeds for the eventual departure of the Hornets. However there was indeed one member of the Panthers who did at least ignite a measure of emotion and controversy regarding his stay here and his eventual departure. That would the newest member of the Tennessee Titans, quarterback Kerry Collins.

In being the fifth overall pick in the 1995 draft Kerry also has the honor of being the first original Panther. He was the rookie QB who stepped in for the aging and floundering Frank Reich during the Panthers first ever home game in 'Death Valley'. He was also the man who helped take the team all the way to the 1996 NFC Championship in Green Bay. Collins was indeed on his way to being the benchmark for all other players who would wear the Black, Blue and Silver. Instead Kerry took a big U-turn from the path to martyrdom and certainly ranks as the most despised original Panther is the teams short history.

When the 1997 preseason began, the high flying defending NFC West champion Panthers were dealt a healthy dose of reality when linebacker Bill Romanowski of the Denver Broncos broke Kerry's jaw with a very questionable hit in the game. Collins, and therefore the Panthers, season never really got on its footing after that and the team finished 7-9. During that off-season the media started reporting about Kerry's wild parties and fight with alcoholism. To open the 1998 season Collins got labeled a racist after some off the cuff derogatory words thrown around during training camp. Then after an 0-4 start, he walked into the office of coach Dom Capers and resigned from the team. Carolina placed him on waivers, the New Orleans Saints signed him.

As a final curtain call to the Queen City, in November of 1998 Kerry was arrested for driving while intoxicated and gave this city it's first taste of the darker side of professional sports that would haunt it's football franchise for the next few years. For some time after Kerry's irresolute departure the #12 was a four letter word around these parts. One of my friends turned his Kerry Collins jersey into a Halloween costume complete with a missing heart. Panther Nation was not hurt enough to completely lose interest in the team. But the virgin pain of betrayal had a firm grip on most of us at the time.

It might intrigue some to know that even when he was throwing interceptions and drink till dawn Kerry was considered one of the most charitable players in the NFL. Immediately upon signing his rookie contract with the Carolina Panthers, he donated $250,000 to the Penn State athletic department to permanently endow the quarterback position. He has donated over 2 million dollars to charities such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Harlem Boys Choir. In 2001, Collins donated $120,000 to Manhattan's Ladder 5/Engine 24 Family Relief following the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center.

Through the KC for Kids Fund of the Kerry Collins Foundation, Collins has donated more than $500,000 for the renovation of the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, a children's unit within the NYU Medical Center. Previously Collins donated $100,000 to the Institute, to establish the Kerry M. Collins Computer Center and Classroom, with specially modified equipment for infirmed children. During the 2005 season, Collins pledged $1,000 for every touchdown he threw and every game the Raiders won to the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina relief fund. On March 24, 2006, Collins was honored by The Second Mile Foundation in recognition of his commitment to others.

I know there are fans out there that feel betrayed anytime a player they like switches teams. However in the vast majority of cases it is simply not worth the effort. In today's game players are just a commodity and move around to the situation that suits them best. Maybe it is a selfish notion that for the most part it is about following the money. Of course I find being judgmental right up there with being greedy, so I try and take the more empathic road towards understanding. If a player wants to leave the Panthers, it is their choice and I should be man enough to let them go. Save your loyalty, and jersey money, for those rare and special athletes who don't want to let you the Carolina fan go and choose to remain a Panther for life.  

Friday, September 01, 2006

I shall call him mini-Jake

One of the things that makes American football great is the fact that there are not many games on the schedule. Each contest means something. Fans of the NFL generally embrace each and every game with a healthy dose of alacrity. But if ever there is a preternatural moment in the course of a franchises quest for the Lombardi Trophy it would have to be week 4 of the preseason. The starters of any given team spend more time actually putting on their uniforms than they do playing. With 36 hours to go before roster cutdowns, you have all sorts of guys playing for their professional lives and usually one can see why.

Last nights game between the Carolina Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers was no different for about the first 58 minutes. The entire first half was actually rather painful to watch as both squads appeared hell bent on both not getting anyone hurt or providing any useful film to their upcoming opponents.  

But in the fourth quarter those Panther fans that decided to brave it out and continue watching were treated with a fantastic show. The team's fourth string QB Brett Basanez

had himself quite a coming out party. And it was not just some statistical compilation playing against a bunch of future waiters at Steak and Shake. It was a truly Carolina style Cardiac Cats type of performance.

Now Brett did play a good portion of the second half and did well, but that is so not important. The memories began with 1:47 to go in the fourth quarter and the Steelers leading 13-12. From  the Carolina 9 yard line Brett starts the drive with a deep pass to Jeff King for 27 yards. This is followed by two short passes that deliver a 3rd and 7 situation. On third down, a Steeler defender tore through the line and sacked Brett for 7 yards.

Now there is 46 seconds left and it is 4th and 14. Brett in a shotgun, drops back and under pressure throws an incomplete pass to Justin McCullum. Oh well is the initial reaction, but this cat has got multiple lives because the refs call a 15 yard roughing the passer penalty against Pittsburgh and now it is 1st and 10 just three yards shy of midfield. Brett tries to hit McCullum again, incomplete. On second down the drive begins in earnest. Brett fires and hits Justin with a deep right side pass good for 14 yards. First down from the Pitt 39 yard line Brett again misses a receiver. Second down, 27 seconds remaining he finds Taye Biddle on a short pass for 8 yards. Still 27 seconds on the clock, no timeouts left and well within Kasey range based on the previous 4 perfect FG's we are all thinking that Brett is going to slam the ball to the ground and force the clock to stop. But no, he meanders up to the line with everyone anticipating the spike and instead takes a quick snap and then fires a laser beam pass into the hands of Justin McCullum who then sprints towards the endzone and is driven out of bounds at the Steeler 11 yard line with 4 seconds remaining. A John Kasey chipshot later and the Panthers win 15-13.

How many times have we seen Jake Delhomme and the starters line up under the most dire circumstances only to pull off a victory as time expires? If you did not watch the game last night and opened up today's paper you will probably be looking at Brett's so-so 73.9 passer rating. You might even look at Stefan LeFors 109.4 rating and think he had a good night. You would be wrong. LeFors did a damn good Randy Fasani impersonation last night and look like total crap.

I am not sure if the kid is going to make the roster, but in my mind he is the true Mini-Jake. He was not flashy and fancy, but he gutted it out in the clutch. Hell, he even has a weird name where there the letters do not match the pronunciation. It is bah-SAW-ney and not BAH-SA-nez. To paraphrase one Gunnery Sergeant Hartman "Brett may be silly and ignorant, but he has guts and guts are enough"