All the Panthers wanted was for Jake Delhomme to have a shot at leading them to victory in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl on Sunday. They knew he'd come through when it mattered.
He did. It just wasn't enough.
Despite a go-ahead 85-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad and a 12-yarder to Ricky Proehl that tied it with 1:08 left, Delhomme could only watch as Adam Vinatieri's kick lifted New England past Carolina 32-29.
"I thought he kept us in the game and they kept battling back," Panthers coach John Fox said. "Unfortunately, they had the ball last.
"If we had had a little more time, it might have been different."
Among Delhomme's thoughts there had to be a sense of what might've been. He missed two-point conversion passes after the first two of Carolina's three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"I just wanted to watch the celebration and let it hurt even more," Delhomme said. "In two days when I am going to be complaining and whining, I am just going to keep on working and try to get back here and be on the other side of the rope."
The Panthers were used to nail-biting finish. They were 7-0 in games decided by three points or fewer _ until Sunday. Delhomme had led them to eight second-half comeback wins.
Carolina tied a league record with three overtime wins, then won in double overtime in the second round of the playoffs.
What the Panthers wouldn't have done for one more extra period. "It's a tragedy that we didn't pull it out when we could have and did so many times," receiver Steve Smith said.