Delhomme's 50-yard TD pass helps Panthers roll over Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jake Delhomme left Arizona a winner, even if he had to take a trip to the hospital before he left town.

The embattled Carolina quarterback, whose downward spiral began with a playoff loss at home against Arizona last season, threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith before leaving with a chest injury in the Panthers' 34-21 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday.

The Panthers, in a turnover-free performance, rolled up 270 yards on the ground against what had been the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL.

It was the second-most yards rushing in franchise history, behind 299 against Tampa Bay last season, and a measure of revenge after Arizona beat the Panthers 33-13 at Carolina in last season's playoffs.

"There was a special interest on this game," Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams said.

Arizona's Kurt Warner was intercepted five times and fumbled the ball away once. Julius Peppers returned one of the picks 13 yards for a touchdown.

Coincidentally, Delhomme was intercepted five times and fumbled once in that playoff loss. He had a league-worst 13 picks this season entering Sunday.

Delhomme played a series after he was hurt, then was taken to a hospital for tests. He said after returning to the stadium that nothing serious was discovered. He described the injury as a "chest contusion."

After throwing three interceptions in last Sunday's home loss to Buffalo, Delhomme had to wait until Wednesday to find out if he still was the starter.

"To say it was the lowest point I ever had as a Panther, probably," he said. "So after a ton of self-searching and soul searching, I was looking forward to going back out there and play, just play."

His statistics weren't impressive, but he made no big mistakes and the Panthers' punishing ground game did the rest.

"That is the way we like to play," Delhomme said. "We have been turning it over and I have been the big culprit and we didn't do that today. That was the big thing, and the defense got a ton of turnovers."

Delhomme was 7 of 14 for 90 yards, including the first scoring pass to a wide receiver for the Panthers this season.

Williams rushed for 158 yards on 23 carries, including a 77-yarder to set up Stewart's 10-yard touchdown run that put Carolina (3-4) up for good 14-7 on the first play of the second quarter. Stewart gained 87 yards in 17 attempts.

"We knew what they were going to do and we couldn't stop it," Arizona nose tackle Bryan Robinson said.

Warner completed 27 of 46 for 242 yards and two touchdowns. Two of his interceptions were tipped.

"It just seemed like every time the ball was bouncing somewhere, it went into their hands," Warner said. "It's to their credit. They were hustling. They were running all over the football field."

Delhomme was hurt on a hard hit by Arizona's Chike Okeafor and Darnell Dockett with 5:59 left in the third quarter. He got to his knees, then slowly walked off the field, but was back for the next series before leaving for good.

On the bench, he said he began to feel "a little chilly" and "kind of a little weak." That led to the trip to the hospital.

The Cardinals (4-3) remained in first in the NFC West because San Francisco lost at Indianapolis, but the ugly performance often drew boos from the capacity crowd. Arizona has lost more home games than it did all of last season.

Each team scored on its first possession. Stewart scored on a 6-yard run, then Warner threw 14 yards to rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling for his NFL touchdown.

"It's very disappointing that we aren't playing better at home right now," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We have the same record that we were at this time last year. I still feel like we're a better football team. We just didn't play that way today."

With the Panthers leading 21-7, Arizona Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie bit on Delhomme's pump fake, freeing Smith to run alone downfield on a 50-yard touchdown pass play and it was 21-7 with 7:33 left in the half.

Five seconds later, on the Cardinals' next play from scrimmage, Peppers stepped in Warner's way and picked off the short pass, running untouched to make it 28-7.

The Cardinals cut it to 28-14 and 31-21 but could get no closer as John Kasay kicked field goals of 35 and 31 yards in the fourth quarter.

"To come on the road, playing a good football team, one that handled us pretty good in the playoffs a year ago," Carolina coach John Fox said, "it was a big win for a lot of reasons."

Arizona's Anquan Boldin played despite an ankle injury that limited him in practice all week. However, he aggravated the injury in the third quarter, left the game and did not return. He caught three passes to make him the Cardinals' career leader in receptions.

Game notes
Peppers also forced a fumble by Warner. ... Martin started because Charles Godfrey is out with an injury. ... Arizona's next opponent, Chicago, rushed for 170 yards against Cleveland, one of the NFL's worst defenses, on Sunday.

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