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Sports

Panthers ‘D’ a bright spot in miserable season
Unit has shown improvement over 2011
 
Published Tuesday, November 20, 2012 3:28 pm
by Cheris F. Hodges, for The Charlotte Post

As miserable as the Carolina Panthers’ record is, the defense has been good enough to win.

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PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Carolina Panthers defensive end Frank Alexander (90) focuses his attention on Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman on Nov. 18 at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina is 19th in the NFL in total defense, 12th in points allowed.


For a 2-8 team, Carolina is in the NFL’s top 20 in total defense – 19th overall and 12th in points allowed at 24.3 per game.


“We don’t have any quit in us, especially the defense,” said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who returned an interception 77 yards for a touchdown in Sunday’s 27-21 overtime loss to Tampa Bay.


Defensive tackle Ron Edwards said when the defense is on the field, they just  “keep pounding,” giving the Panthers opportunities to compete, although the record doesn’t reflect it.


“Overall, we’re maturing and gelling together,” said Edwards.


Cornerback Josh Norman said the defense is aggressive, which suits the personnel.


“I’m learning more and more each week,” the rookie said. “You have to be in right place at the right time. It’s defense first. Turnovers, takeaways and running to the ball. The D-linemen get that pressure up front and we hold our keys and know our responsibilities and shut down wide receivers.”


In the first half against Denver, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning – a sure first-round hall of famer – didn’t throw to the side of the field Norman was defending.  “That’s the cream of the crop,” he said. “Most rookies get tried a lot.”


Against Tampa Bay, Carolina’s defense kept the Panthers in the game. In addition to Munnerlyn’s interception return, linebacker Thomas Davis forced a fumble on the goal line to stifle a Buccaneers threat.


“Defensively, we’ve been playing well all season,” Davis said. “We want the game to be the way that it was. Put the game in our hands, allow us to finish it.”


But by the time the game went into overtime, the defense looked tired and Tampa made the Panthers pay.


“We have to learn from it,” Munnerlyn said. “I know that sounds like a broken record, but we’ve got to learn how to finish games. We’re not doing a very good job right now. We’ve just got to keep working at it. We have to play all four quarters – offensively, defensively, special teams. Just put it all together.
 

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