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Delhomme shoulders blame for Panthers loss

Carolina quarterback throws 3 interceptions in 34-14 NFC Championship loss to Seahawks

Delhomme shoulders blame for Panthers loss
If wide receiver Steve Smith is the heart of the Carolina Panthers' offense, quarterback Jake Delhomme is its conscience. Always accountable when things go wrong. Always accepting more than his share of the blame.

There was, of course, more than enough blame to go around Sunday, as Carolina was chased out of the NFL playoffs by Seattle, falling 34-14 at Qwest Field. Afterward, Delhomme was front and center, as usual.

It had not been pretty. The quarterback who entered the afternoon with a 5-1 record as a playoff starter and a 108.4 passer rating had had a dismal day, throwing two key interceptions early and adding another later.

This time, his rating was a nearly invisible 34.9.

Meaningless touchdown

Carolina managed one meaningless offensive touchdown.

Delhomme dressed quietly in a corner of the visiting locker room, then went to the podium in a nearby interview room to be accountable again.

"You've got to give them credit," he said.

"That's a good football team, the best in the NFC all year. They played better than us today, that's for sure."

The first two interceptions, of course, stirred memories of the Panthers' regular-season loss in Chicago, daggers slicing through the Panthers' hopes.

With Carolina down 7-0 late in the first quarter, Seattle middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu grabbed the ball at the Panthers' 41 and returned it to the 20, setting up a field goal.

"We had third and long, and I was trying to knock in a 20-yard in-route to (Steve Smith)," Delhomme said. "No. 51 did a good job. He was lined up deep, he came back up, we had Ricky (Proehl) coming across and I was trying to get it in the hole. He came across and made a good play."

On Carolina's next possession, Delhomme was picked off again, this time by safety Marquand Manuel, who brought it back 32 yards to the Panthers' 17.

That one led to a score that made it 17-0 at the beginning of the second quarter.

"We kind of had an out-post to Keary Colbert," Delhomme said. "I was trying to get it in the hole and I believe I got hit when I was trying to throw the football."

Final interception

There would be one more, late in the third period with Carolina down by 20 and quickly running out of time.

"The last one to Ricky, I was trying to get the ball out of my hand and threw it high, plain and simple," he said.

Delhomme finished with 15 completions in 35 attempts. His one touchdown pass, to Drew Carter, came too late. It had been an evening in which he looked little like the Jake Delhomme who so often came up big in big games.

"It's hard," he said.

"You lose in a championship game and you just feel terrible. And that's the hard part because we did do some good things," he said.

"We went on a great run at the end. But when you come this far and you lose, it's hard to look at the positives," he said.

"And there were a lot, but they're hard to talk about right now. You're so close, and you don't get these opportunities. If you get to the championship game; that's the hardest part."