January 19, 2004
In the Backfield: Underdog Label Fine With Carolina
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
There were plenty of people who doubted whether or not the Patriots could upset the St. Louis Rams prior to the Superbowl three years ago.
New England meanwhile believed they could win that game, and in the end they knocked off the Rams and won a Championship.
Heading into their match-up against the favored Patriots in Houston the Panthers are feeling just as confident.
After all, many of those same experts gave Carolina virtually no chance of going into Philadelphia and beating an Eagles team that couldn't possibly lose their third straight NFC Championship game.
Well guess what, it happened. Carolina's heading to the Superbowl and defensive lineman Brentsen Buckner is telling the rest of the world they better be prepared.
The Panthers are for real.
"People didn't believe it," Buckner told the Charlotte Observer after Sunday's NFC Championship victory. "The NFL world didn't want us. Nobody wanted to see the Panthers in the Super Bowl, but now you've got to deal with it. Whether you like it or not, learn to love it. Today, in the NFC, we're the best thing going.
There's no reason why they shouldn't. Carolina was so physical with the Eagles that quarterback Donovan McNabb was beaten up so bad he was forced to finally leave the game in the fourth quarter. They kept coming all game and caused three interceptions by McNabb, keeping Philadelphia out of the endzone, and frustrating an Eagles offense who thirteen times faced a third down, and only twice were permitted by the Panthers to make it.
In the end they walked off the field hearing the remaining inebriated Eagles fans shouting obscenities as they were forced to go home knowing they watched their team let yet another one get away.
It wasn't long after the game that Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith was informed that the Patriots were a seven-point favorite in Houston.
"That's our whole story man," Smith told the Observer. "We've been underdogs since Day 1. We've been underdogs since '95."
That may be, but it hasn't stopped them yet. As a matter of fact, watching runningback DeShaun Foster's third quarter rushing touchdown shows they're going to be tough to stop.
On the play Foster took the pitch from quarterback Jake Delhomme and started to his right, but was hit by a Philadelphia defender at the 3-yard line and was still on his feet.
He was then hit again at the 2-yard line by two more Eagles, and took yet another shot at the one before dragging them into the endzone for his first NFL rushing touchdown.
Sheer determination got him into the endzone, and now that same determination has the Panthers packing their bags for Houston.
During the bye week there likely won't be any trash talk coming from the Panthers locker room as that doesn't appear to be their style. They are a young team who seem to have a lot of respect for their opponent.
Delhomme was asked by The New York Times last week what NFL player he would most like to emulate. His response was surprising.
"I look at all the quarterbacks and I see Tom Brady," Delhomme told the newspaper. "All he does is win. I'd rather be known as a Tom Brady than anyone else because his teammates respect him and he gets the job done."
"I'm not the big, 6-4, 6-5, guy, sit in the pocket, chuck it all over the field. I do it any way -- fight, scratch, claw just to get it done. And have your team believe in you. That's all I want."
Well it's obvious they believe in him, and after beating the Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams, and now the Eagles, the Panthers like their chances.
They don't care if they're the underdog. In their minds it's simple, bring it on.
"Nobody ever gives us a shot to win any game," Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins told the newspaper. "And ain't nobody going to give us a shot to win this one."
Just the way they like it.
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