Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown – in the first half. He’s 38 years old. You want perspective on 38? Kansas City selected him with the 13th pick in the 1997 draft. Carolina’s first round pick in ’97 was its worst ever in every conceivable way – Rae Carruth. The Panthers recovered in the second round, drafting safety Mike Minter.
• Cam Newton celebrated his 8-yard touchdown run by doing the Dirty Bird. Had forgotten about that. But there was a time when Atlanta’s victory dance was huge. I was in Australia for the 2000 Olympics and a sports bar – only sports bar I’ve been in that serves octopus – showed an Atlanta game. When a Falcon began doing the dance, a fan with a thick Eastern European accent loudly announced, “The Dirty Bird.”
• Nate Chandler was once a 230-pound tight end at UCLA. Then he became a defensive tackle. The Panthers signed him as a free-agent defensive tackle, waived him, signed him to the practice squad and promoted him. He filled in on the offensive line in a practice and the offense confiscated him, turning him into a tackle. On Sunday, Chandler played guard – he weighs 310 pounds now. He replaced injured Jeff Byers. As Byers left the locker room Sunday on crutches Byers yelled to Chandler, “Nice job, Bud.”
• Ron Rivera sat courtside Friday for the Charlotte Bobcats victory against Cleveland. When his face appeared on the scoreboard, fans gave him a warm ovation. Rivera is fortunate the NBA season doesn’t begin earlier. He appeared to appreciate the response of the fans.
• A few of us spent time on the field before the game with former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme. Jake was Jake – accessible, friendly and humble. Fans repeatedly called his name, cheering for him and asking to take his picture or to pose with him. Astute fans remember Jake for what he did, not what he failed to.
Sorensen: 704-358-5119; Twitter: @tomsorensen