CHARLOTTE — For three quarters Sunday, new Carolina quarterback Brian St. Pierre did so little in the Panthers game against Baltimore that you almost forgot he was there.
In the fourth quarter, he became unforgettable. St. Pierre threw three touchdown passes in the final 15 minutes of Carolinas 37-13 loss to Baltimore but two of them went to the guys in the other uniforms in the space of 11 shocking seconds.
And so it came to pass that we all came to understand why St. Pierre who in his seventh NFL season, at age 30, was making his first NFL start had not started a game any sooner than this.
St. Pierre seems like a great guy. Hes just not a very good quarterback. I didnt want to let anyone down, St. Pierre said later, especially on my team. I didnt want to be the reason we lost. Unfortunately, I was definitely part of it.
St. Pierre has the attitude you want. He actually believed Carolina (1-9) could win this game, and for a few seconds in the fourth quarter it looked like he might be right.
In the first three quarters, St. Pierre threw one short, safe, ultimately unsuccessful pass after another. It was as if the Panthers had banned him from throwing the ball more than five yards. He threw for 51 yards in those three quarters a number so paltry that CBS aired a graphic showing that St. Pierre had a chance to throw for the fewest yards all season by an NFL starter.
But then came St. Pierres one great moment an 88-yard touchdown pass to David Gettis that was as pretty as the sunny fall afternoon. Gettis blew by the cornerback guarding him, safety Ed Reed cheated toward Steve Smith and St. Pierre whose arm strength has always been questionable threw a perfect deep ball.
Suddenly, Carolina only trailed 20-13 and there were still 14-plus minutes to go. St. Pierre, who came into the game having thrown for only 12 yards in his entire NFL career, had just gotten more than seven times that yardage on a single play.
Growled Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs: At that point we said, Thats enough. Weve let them play around long enough.
The Panthers got the ball back once down by seven, but did nothing. St. Pierre threw another three-yard pass on third-and-five.
Then Baltimore kicked a field goal, making it 23-13, and the onslaught began. On third-and-11, St. Pierre tried to fit a 15-yard pass into Dante Rosario in tight coverage. Baltimores Ed Reed easily intercepted it and lateraled to Dawan Landry, who scored.
On Carolinas next offensive play, St. Pierre saw a Baltimore blitz, threw to his hot read and saw Ray Lewis pick it off and run 24 yards for a touchdown.
I have a lot of pride in doing my job and doing my job right, St. Pierre said. I wished I did it a little better today.
Nevertheless, St. Pierre (13-for-28, 173 yards, 1 TD, two interceptions) could have been worse Sunday. I thought he did really well for the game relatively speaking, Panther coach John Fox said. Even the way it ended up, a couple of those were not all to blame on the quarterback.
I thought he played pretty good, wide receiver Steve Smith said. I mean, he just rolled out of bed and threw an 80-yard bomb.
To come in and understand the offense well enough to run a full game plan against an outstanding defense thats big, offensive tackle Jordan Gross said.
St. Pierres wife, parents and two brothers came to the game to see his first NFL start. It might be his last, but I bet he starts at least one more game for the Panthers this season, too. Carolina will be careful with Clausens head injury, and St. Pierre did play well enough Sunday to secure the No.2 role for the rest of 2010.
Beyond that? St. Pierre doesnt know. Im just hopefully going to try to find a place to live other than the hotel this week, he said.
St. Pierre reminds me a little of Jake Delhomme. He is a stand-up guy who adapts well. He is naturally self-deprecating not many NFL players would have admitted they were changing a diaper when they got the call less than two weeks ago to join the Panthers.
However, St. Pierre doesnt have and none of the Panthers other quarterbacks have yet shown Delhommes ability to win games regularly in the clutch. Delhomme threw some terrible interceptions just like St. Pierre did Sunday, but he counter-balanced those with a bushel of fourth-quarter comebacks.
Carolina has yet to find Delhommes permanent replacement. Maybe it will be Jimmy Clausen -- who will re-assume the starting job once he recovers from a concussion.
Maybe its Tony Pike or Armanti Edwards although not under Fox, as the coach stiffed both rookies in favor of St. Pierre Sunday. Maybe its someone else not yet on the roster.
But its not St. Pierre.
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