The Carolina Panthers know a Week 2 victory over New England doesn’t come close to rectifying their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots two years ago.
Even so, their 27-17 victory over the Patriots on Sunday sure did feel good.
“It wasn’t a revenge game or a get-back game, because that was a long time ago,” said Panther quarterback Jake Delhomme. “This was just a big win for us.”
It certainly was no Super Bowl reprise because neither team played that well.
But the Panthers (1-1) did just enough to win, getting three touchdowns from Stephen Davis in the first regular-season meeting between the teams since the Patriots’ thrilling 32-29 Super Bowl win two seasons ago.
But if it was any indication, neither team is ready to play for a championship and the Patriots (1-1) look nothing like the team that won three of the last four Super Bowls.
“Do you think we’re going to win any more games playing like this?” Patriot Coach Bill Belichick said. “We can’t play like this. We have to play better. We have to coach better. This won’t be good enough ... against anyone we play.”
Carolina won in spite of Delhomme, who finished 11 for 26 for 154 yards with no touchdowns and had an interception by Mike Vrabel returned 24 yards for a touchdown.
It meant the Panthers had to rely on Davis, who ran for 77 yards and scored on three one-yard plunges in his second game back after microfracture surgery on his right knee. Davis became the first running back to score three touchdowns against the Patriots since Curtis Martin did it in 2000.
“I’m fine,” Davis said. I’m feeling great. I’m having no setbacks.”
Neither did Carolina’s defense, despite the loss last week of tackle Kris Jenkins to a season-ending knee injury. Even without their run stopper, the Panthers shut down Corey Dillon and limited the Patriots to 39 yards rushing.
“One person isn’t going to cause a tremendous drop-off, contrary to popular belief,” said end Julius Peppers. “We aren’t just going to fall off without Kris. We still play hard and we still have great players.”
Quarterback Tom Brady, most valuable player of the Super Bowl two years ago, had two of New England’s three turnovers. He finished 23 for 44 for 270 yards, with one interception and a fumble.
Brady did throw a one-yard pass to Daniel Graham early in the first quarter for the 100th passing touchdown of his career.