Numbers can deceive, but they can sometimes illuminate, which is what we'll try to do here as we look at some of the key digits in regards to each position. Today, quarterbacks are on the docket ...
... is the number of seasons in which a Panthers quarterback has started all 16 regular-season games. Delhomme started the entire season for the third time in his career and first since 2005.
Carolina generally has had good luck in keeping its starting quarterback upright. Delhomme's full campaign as starter is the franchise's fifth in the last 10 seasons, with Steve Beuerlein providing the other two in 1999 and 2000. Carolina has won an average of 9.0 games in the seasons in which it has started the same quarterback for all 16 games -- including playoff appearances in 2005 and 2008 -- and has never been worse than 7-9 in any season in which it started the same passer all year.
Of course, a big reason why Delhomme flourished was because his passing pocket remained mostly pristine throughout the season; the offensive line permitted just 20 sacks, the fewest in Panthers annals. That shattered the previous record of 26, set in 2003.
... was the Panthers' record last year when Delhomme threw 30 or more passes, a ledger that includes the divisional playoff defeat in which he threw 34 times.
Of course, pass-run ratio is often a product of tactics and a response to the score and time remaining in the game, which is why losses generally feature more passes than wins for a balanced offense. But Delhomme's season high for attempts came in a victory -- 41 tosses at San Diego in Week 1. There are two circumstances to this occurrence worth noting -- one obvious, one not.
- This was one of two games the Panthers played without Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith.
- This was the first time that the Panthers have won when Delhomme threw at least 40 passes. Carolina came into this season 0-4 when Delhomme hit that milepost, with three of the losses coming in the 2004 season and a fourth coming in Week 2 against Houston last year.
And the flip side of all that ...
... was Carolina's record last year when Delhomme threw fewer than 30 passes, which continued a trend that began with his first career start on Christmas Eve 1999 with New Orleans, when he tossed 27 passes -- completing 16 -- in a win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Including that win with the Saints, the Panthers are 42-7 when Delhomme throws fewer than 30 passes. The two exceptions this past season came at Minnesota -- when he was 17-of-29 -- and at New York, when he went 11-of-19 in the overtime defeat to the Giants.
What those two games had in common for Delhomme were completion percentages of 60.0 percent. When he surpassed that percentage in 2008, the Panthers went 8-0, raising his career record to 37-9 when hitting that accuracy standard.
... or to be exact, 7.94, is how many yards per attempt Delhomme averaged last year, easily the best of his career and the best in franchise history.
League-wide, that pace trailed only three other quarterbacks -- San Diego's Philip Rivers, New Orleans' Drew Brees and Houston's Matt Schaub. The only other comparable per-attempt average for Delhomme was when he averaged 7.86 yards in 2005. Not coincidentally, that was the last time Delhomme played a full 16 games.
But what is even more revealing is the average per pass play, which incorporates yards lost on sacks into its metric. This year, the Panthers averaged a franchise-record 7.28 yards per pass play, surpassing the previous standard of 6.86 -- set in 2005 -- by nearly a half-yard.
... is Delhomme's career record -- incorporating both regular-season and postseason -- when he surpasses 100.0 in quarterback rating.
Now, sometimes too much is made of this statistic, which has acquired a sense of mystery about it thanks to the intricate calculations and statistically unusual standard for perfection (158.3), leading this writer to waste some of his spare time trying to come up with a better system that would denote perfection as an academic 100 or a gymnastic 10.
But for Delhomme, a 100.0 rating has been a fairly accurate indicator of team success. Carolina won all six of its 2008 games in which he surpassed that milestone, and averaged 30.5 points in those contests. When he didn't, the Panthers went 6-5 and averaged 22.2 points per game.
Coming next ... a look at the running backs.