Jonathan Stewarts first rush in the 2013 season didnt exactly go as planned.
Early in the second quarter, he took the handoff from Cam Newton and was stuffed by two Falcons for a loss of 2 yards.
Despite the negative yardage, Stewart was just happy to be on the field, and figured things would work themselves out as the game went along.
Im pretty sure if youre not nervous your first carry, youre kind of not human, Stewart said following Carolinas 34-10 win against Atlanta. I definitely had some nerves today and got worked out.
Stewart rushed nine times for 43 yards to lead the team on the ground in his first game since being activated from the physically unable to perform list. Stewart hadnt played since spraining his ankle last November against Philadelphia, and in January he had surgeries on both ankles.
He also hauled in three passes for 22 yards out of the backfield, leading all running backs.
In all, Stewart got 12 touches, two more than the maximum Ron Rivera said he was aiming for.
Stewart said he kept in constant contact with fellow backs DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert on the sideline, using them to glean information on what Atlantas defense was doing while the three backs rotated in the game.
Jonathan is a warrior and he comes out each and every day, Newton said. Even when he was hurt, he had the attitude that hes going to find a way to get back on the field. Hes back on the field now and whatever coach has asked him to do, hes done.
Injury update : The Panthers were dealt rapid-fire injuries to their offensive line late in the first half, and who plays at right guard next week against San Francisco could be up in the air.
Chris Scott sprained his right knee with 56 seconds left in the second quarter and did not return His replacement, Jeff Byers, sprained his left foot before halftime and was carted off.
Nate Chandler had to go in and play guard for us, Rivera said. The nice thing is hes worked at that position. Well see how both of those guys are as we go forward. It gets a little scary going into the game with injuries.
Scott was in a knee brace after the game Byers was in a boot. Both players are slated to get an MRI Monday.
Cornerback James Dockery injured his shoulder in the game, though the extent was unclear.
Delhomme back home : Jake Delhomme agreed that it doesnt feel like it had been 10 years since he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl, and he doesnt think its a stretch that this years team can go back.
Its a dangerous football team, said Delhomme on the Panthers sideline before the game. Its very simple. I dont think too many teams in the NFL want to play this football team.
We had some great teams, but I think this team, the way theyre built right now to keep going, they have a chance to eclipse some things, or do the one thing we couldnt do and thats win a Super Bowl.
Delhomme was the Panthers starting quarterback from 2003-2009, and Sunday was the first home game he had attended since being released by the team before the 2010 season. He emphatically banged the Keep Pounding drum before the game and received a standing ovation from the fans.
He said he had sent former Panthers coach John Fox a text message earlier in the morning but had not heard back from the coach, who is slated to have heart surgery early this week.
I sent him a text this morning, kind of dont want to bother him, but it sounds like for all intents and purposes, things are going to be OK, Delhomme said. (Former Panthers quarterbacks coach) Mike McCoy and I did speak last night and I think everything will be OK.
• Cam Newton didnt set his feet on either interception. His first to Ted Ginn Jr. was underthrown, while his second wasnt thrown long enough to get out of the back of the end zone.
• Gastonia Hunter Huss graduate Lamar Holmes started at right tackle for the Falcons, whose offensive line allowed just one sack of Matt Ryan.
• The longest play of the game went to Atlanta wide receiver Harry Douglas, who caught a 41-yard pass in the second quarter. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn took responsibility for Douglas 25 yards after catch, which came after Munnerlyn tried to poke the ball out rather than tackle Douglas.
• Graham Ganos 55-yard field goal came out like a line drive, and Rivera said after the game Gano kicked it in the middle of the ball, forcing the low liner.
By the numbers
24 Yards on a second-quarter punt return by Ted Ginn Jr., his longest this season.
68.4 Newtons quarterback rating, his second-worst of the season.
3 Interceptions for Luke Kuechly this year, tying him with Mike Mitchell for the team lead.
4 Games cornerback Josh Norman, last years starting cornerback, has been inactive this season.
• Look, Peyton Mannings not playing for the Colts anymore. Me not playing for the Panthers, its not that much of a tragic thing. Former Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme.
• Were all held responsible and were all accountable for the 2-6 record. Atlanta coach Mike Smith.
• To beat a team by that margin and not play your A game, thats the sign of a good team. Carolina tight end Greg Olsen.
• I love going up against guys like that (Luke Kuechly) because they bring out the best in me and hopefully I can bring out the best in them. Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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