After the Panthers' season-opening loss to the Eagles Sunday, coach John Fox said the team wins together and loses together. He refused to place all the blame on quarterback Jake Delhomme, who turned the ball over five times in less than three full quarters.
Fox was right to spread the blame. Teammates and coaches were at least partly at fault for four of Delhomme's turnovers, and the Eagles simply made a great play on the fifth. Here is a look at what caused each of Delhomme's turnovers Sunday:
No. 1 -- Interception
Scenario: The Panthers had a second-and-5 at their own 29, leading 7-0 with about 3 minutes left in the first quarter.
What happened: Delhommed faked a handoff and threw to his left for receiver Steve Smith, who was open. But an Eagles lineman tipped the ball, which then caromed behind Smith, who also tipped it. Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown corralled the ball just inches from the ground for the pick.
How it happened: Two Eagles defenders made great plays.
Conclusion: This was just a fluky turnover that Delhomme and the Panthers had little control over.
No. 2 -- Fumble
Scenario: Panthers third-and-10 at their own 25, leading 7-3 on the first play of the second quarter.
What happened: The Panthers lined up in the shotgun with 4 receivers and a back. At the snap, the back flared left but was well-covered. Delhomme looked left but, upon seeing his back covered, pulled the ball back. Two Eagles hammered Delhomme, knocking the ball free.
How it happened: The Eagles blitzed and two defenders fired up the middle unblocked. Delhomme did not protect the ball, possibly because he did not see the blitzing defenders until just before he was hit.
Conclusion: A bad play call and poor ball security. Offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson should not have sent 5 players out in passing routes. The Eagles often blitz, especially on third down. Delhomme needed at least a back or tight end to help in pass protection. But Delhomme should know that if he has 5 players running routes, he must get rid of the ball quickly, especially on a third down against a blitzing team. He also needed to hold on to the ball when he was hit. That sounds obvious, but let's reinforce it because Delhomme does not seem to get that point.
No. 3 -- Interception
Scenario: Panthers third-and-7 at their own 33, trailing 17-7 with 10 minutes to play in the second quarter.
What happened: The Panthers lined up in a bunch formation. Delhomme faked a handoff and threw to his left towards Smith. Brown picked it off.
How it happened: Smith was well-covered and Delhomme's throw was late.
Conclusion: Delhomme's third turnover in less than 9 minutes looked to be his fault alone.
No. 4 -- Interception
Scenario: Panthers third-and-18 at their own 27, trailing 31-10 with 8-plus minutes left in the third.
What happened: The Panthers lined up in the shotgun with 3 receivers and 2 backs. Williams, lined up to Delhomme's left, moved left and waited for a screen pass. Eagles linebacker Akeem Jordan covered Williams. Delhomme held the ball to allow the screen to develop, but was hit as he threw. Jordan picked it off.
How it happened: Eagles defensive end Trent Cole lined up on the edge, then stunted towards the middle at the snap. He flew into the backfield, with Panthers left guard Travell Wharton whiffing on a block. Wharton actually hit Eagles defensive end Chris Clemons before realizing -- too late -- that a stunt was on. Left tackle Jordan Gross blocked Clemons, yet Clemons beat Gross, arrived at Delhomme in tandem with Cole, and appeared to be the one who actually hit Delhomme's arm.
Conclusion: Great defense, bad protection and a bad decision by Delhomme. Pressure aside, Delhomme can't throw the ball to a back who was as well-covered as Williams.
No. 5 -- Interception
Scenario: Panthers first-and-10 at their own 24, trailing 38-10 with 7 minutes to play in the third.
What happened: The Panthers lined up in I-formation with a tight end. Delhomme threw deep down the right sidelines for Smith, who drew single-coverage from Eagles corner Asante Samuel. Samuel jumped and picked it off.
How it happened: Smith had a step on Samuel, but had to virtually stop because Delhomme underthrew the ball. At this point it was a jump ball. Samuel won the jump over Smith, who did not make a play on the ball.
Conclusion: A bad throw by Delhomme, but Smith could have done more to prevent the pick.