Delhomme and the Panthers were defeated 32-29 by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, giving New England their second of six Super Bowl victories. Delhomme was sensational, throwing for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns. But it wasn't enough, as Adam Vinatieri kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired.
"You know, I'm proud of what we did," Delhomme told WCNC Charlotte. "You know, you still have that scar of losing the Super Bowl and how close we were."
The Patriots' defensive front swarmed Delhomme and the Panthers early, putting them in a hole to start. Trailing 21-10, DeShaun Foster broke a 33-yard touchdown run. That's when the Panthers got a little too ambitious, according to Delhomme. Two failed two-point conversions took points off the board. Points that could've been the difference in the game.
"Something that always stuck with me is that we chased points in that game," he said. "In the second half, going for two and I'm not so sure how that would have played out at the end had we not done that and kicked extra points. Vinatieri would have had to make the kick to win the game, because if he missed the kick, we're going to overtime. I think there's a different pressure when you're down and have to make that kick. Knowing that we're tied, if something happens you still get to go to overtime."
Bank of America Stadium through the years
Delhomme said the entire 2003 season, his first as the Panthers' starting quarterback, was a blur. In fact, he didn't have time to soak it all in until after losing the Super Bowl.
"Next thing you know, you know it's over," Delhomme said. "You're watching the other team celebrate, the confetti is coming down and you're getting roped off the field. And you just know how close you were to being there and in your mind it's like, 'OK, we're coming back.'"
The close loss gave the Panthers confidence they'd have no trouble getting back to the big game. With a young core of stars that included Steve Smith, Jordan Gross and Julius Peppers, it wasn't a stretch to believe Carolina would contend for Super Bowls on a regular basis. But it never happened, with the team reaching just one NFC Championship Game before Delhomme left after the 2009 season.
"If you look back in history, Dan Marino was one of the greatest passers that we've ever seen and I think in year two, he makes a Super Bowl and he never gets back," Delhomme said. "So you just know how difficult it is. Just to get back to that game, to give yourself an opportunity to be a world champion."
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