CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jake Delhomme was asked Thursday about Carolina Panthers teammate Muhsin Muhammadâ€™s big block in the win over Denver and interrupted the questioner.
â€œWhich one?â€ Delhomme asked.
Told it was when the receiver took out two Broncos on Steve Smithâ€™s 15-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter of Carolinaâ€™s 30-10 win Sunday, Delhomme nodded, then brought up a block he thought was even better.
â€œHe did a block that didnâ€™t show up in the second quarter,â€ Delhomme said. â€œHe blocked this cornerback and he blocked him again, and he blocked him past the ball and as the whistle blew he slammed him down. And there is a presence that is set right there.â€
When the Panthers brought back Muhammad in the offseason after his three-year stint in Chicago, they planned to again make him the No. 2 receiver opposite Smith, the role he played in Carolinaâ€™s Super Bowl season in 2003.
But the Panthers also thought the 35-year-old Muhammad could help resurrect Carolinaâ€™s dormant running game because of his history of being one of the NFLâ€™s top blocking receivers.
â€œIf thereâ€™s a better one out there I havenâ€™t seen him,â€ coach John Fox said.
Delhomme believes Hines Ward of Pittsburgh is Muhammadâ€™s only competition. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Muhammad has the size and strength to flatten or â€œpancakeâ€ defensive backs, plus other intangibles, too.
â€œIf you want to do it, youâ€™re going to do it,â€ Muhammad said. â€œIf you donâ€™t want to do it, you arenâ€™t going to do it. I think my game is a lot different than most players who play this position. I think I bring a little something different to the table.â€
Muhammadâ€™s blocking prowess was born from his late switch to receiver. Muhammad played running back and linebacker in high school. He moved to receiver in college at Michigan State, where he learned the art of blocking downfield.
Carolinaâ€™s second-round pick in 1996, heâ€™s been in on several big blocks this year to boost one of the NFLâ€™s top running games. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have combined for 1,980 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns, and the Panthers are 11-3 heading into Sundayâ€™s showdown at the New York Giants (11-3).
â€œIt helps out DeAngelo,â€ Muhammad said. â€œI think he said it best this week: the offensive line and the fullbacks help him get those 15-yard runs. And when you have receivers who block down the field, that is when you get your 20-, 30- and 40-yard runs or even more.
â€œI think the ultimate goal most guys are focused on is trying to win a championship. My focus is how do we get there? How do we make this team better? That is the goal, to make the team better. With blocking, I think Iâ€™m good at it and I help out in that way.â€
Delhomme said his favorite Muhammad block this season came on Williamsâ€™ 15-yard touchdown run against Arizona in Week 8.
â€œHe blocked the (nickel back) into the safety into the backside corner and DeAngelo Williams scored,â€ Delhomme said. â€œHe blocked three people. He blocked one into another and the other guy couldnâ€™t come up and DeAngelo scored. Thatâ€™s him.â€
Muhammad has also proven to be the steady No. 2 receiver opposite Smith, with 54 catches for 764 yards and four touchdowns. His presence means teams canâ€™t automatically double-team Smith.
But Muhammadâ€™s blocking is what separates him from others at the position. Reserve cornerback C.J. Wilson, who goes up against Muhammad in practice, buried his head in his hands and sighed when asked about the experience.
â€œYou know how they advise you not to stand in front of a train or bad things could happen?â€ Wilson said. â€œWell, that is what it is, because you canâ€™t stop it.â€
Muhammadâ€™s return has coincided with the Panthersâ€™ best record after 14 games. A win Sunday would give them home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs for the first time.
â€œI think Moose has got more pancakes on the season than me,â€ Bridges said. â€œMoose is one of the more aggressive blocking receivers that Iâ€™ve ever seen in the NFL. Itâ€™s magical.â€