Let’s all send along good wishes to John Fox, the most successful coach the Panthers have ever had. Fox faces heart surgery this week in Charlotte and will miss at least several weeks as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. But he’s a tough guy and I’m sure he will return if there’s any way possible to do so before the end of the season.
Fox had some discomfort Saturday on a golf course in Charlotte – the Broncos were on their bye week, and he still owns a home in Charlotte – and was told later he could no longer put off the aortic valve replacement surgery he had hoped to get in the offseason. Get well soon, Foxy.• Great to see Jake Delhomme blasting the “Keep Pounding” drum before the game. Delhomme went out to lunch Saturday with Jordan Gross, Ryan Kalil and Travelle Wharton, and the group fell right back into the teasing sort of repartee that Delhomme has always loved.
“We were giving him a hard time and trying to mess up his hair,” Gross said of Delhomme. “It doesn’t mess up, though. It just goes right back to perfect.”• The Panthers’ newfound penchant for gambling on fourth-and-1 reached new heights Sunday. With Atlanta stacking the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-1 from the 14 and Carolina leading 7-3 in the second quarter, offensive coordinator Mike Shula called for a play-action pass and Cam Newton found Greg Olsen all alone in the end zone.
That’s the sort of play that will get a whole stadium excited. As “Riverboat” Ron Rivera showed once again by going for it in the first place, he really has changed his stripes.• You have to credit the Panthers coaching staff for some halftime adjustments – not a strong suit under Rivera early in his career. The Panthers completely shut down tight end Tony Gonzalez in the second half (77 yards in first, four in second) and they figured out how to run the ball (26 yards in first, 105 in second).
• With New Orleans losing to the New York Jets, the Panthers are suddenly only one game out of the NFC South lead. They play New Orleans twice in the final eight weeks – on Dec. 8 at New Orleans and Dec. 22 at home in a game that seems very likely to have playoff implications.