- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | The Carolina Panthers might have finally found a way to solve Jake Delhomme’s woes: controlled chaos.

A heavy dose of miscues from Matt Ryan and banged-up Atlanta didn’t hurt, either.

The Panthers unleashed a no-huddle offense Sunday with Delhomme calling the plays, and it produced two touchdown passes to Steve Smith, no turnovers and a 28-19 victory over the Falcons.

“No-huddle is controlled chaos,” said Smith, who tripled Carolina’s touchdown total by wide receivers coming into the game. “You’ve got defense running around, and they don’t know what they’re doing. The no-huddle is really easy and simple.”

While Delhomme went turnover-free for the third straight game following 13 interceptions in his first six, it was a difficult day for Ryan and the Falcons (5-4). First, they lost running back Michael Turner to a second-quarter sprained ankle after he already rushed for 111 yards. Then kicker Jason Elam and Ryan stymied their late comeback hopes with key fourth-quarter mistakes.

Ryan, throwing too high much of the day, had two more interceptions. He’s at 12, one more than all of his stellar rookie season.

“I’m young,” Ryan said. “I’ve got a long way to go, a lot of improving to do and a lot of things to learn.”

With Ryan completing only seven of 19 passes in the first half, the Panthers (4-5) built a 21-10 halftime lead. Delhomme looked poised, and the Falcons struggled to get the right defensive personnel on the field.

Delhomme, no longer the NFL leader in interceptions after Jay Cutler’s struggles with Chicago, found Smith on a pair of 4-yard TDs and was in his comfort zone. Much of Delhomme’s best work over the years has come in the two-minute offense.

“That is something that we practice a good bit,” Delhomme said of the no-huddle. “I’m extremely comfortable in that situation.”

The Panthers’ offense wasn’t as successful after halftime, and the game wasn’t sealed until Richard Marshall picked off Ryan, setting up Jonathan Stewart’s 45-yard touchdown run with 2:07 left.

Earlier, Elam missed a 34-yard field goal that would have given Atlanta the lead. It allowed the Panthers to hold on despite losing the cog of their offensive line, left tackle Jordan Gross, to a broken right ankle.

“I think we were at a major crossroad in the season being 3-5,” said receiver Muhsin Muhammad, who had six catches for 91 yards in his return from a knee injury. “If you look at the playoff picture, we have as good a chance as anybody else with seven games left in the season.”

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