|Defense gives Panthers confidence|
|Carolina second in NFL in fewest points, yards allowed|
|Published Thursday, November 14, 2013 7:20 am|
The Panthers have allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL, the second-fewest yards and have forced 21 turnovers this season.
|Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy (76) and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (92) tackle Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson during a Sept. 8 game at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina’s defense is one of the NFL’s best.|
And now they’re figuring out how to win close games.
That’s a dangerous combination for a team on a five-game win streak and playing with confidence.
“That’s our style of defense,” defensive end Greg Hardy said. “... We dominate. We take what we want. We do what we want.”
The Panthers were once known as a team that couldn’t hold a lead. They’ve lost 10 games since 2011 after leading in the fourth quarter, including the first two this season against Buffalo and Seattle.
But somewhere along the line, things have changed.
On Sunday the Panthers (6-3) proved they could play with the big dogs, making two defensive stops in the final four minutes to beat the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers 10-9 for their fifth straight win.
“That’s very important, in light of what happened earlier in the year in Buffalo,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “It tells these guys that have the potential to do things.”
The Panthers have been particularly tough after halftime, allowing just 24 second half points in their six wins.
Head coach Rivera said one of the major differences from last year’s defense has been players’ familiarity with defensive coordinator Sean McDermott’s system.
“For a lot of these guys, it’s their second or third year in the system and at that point you see guys playing very comfortable and very fast and that makes a difference,” Rivera said.
Said McDermott: “There is an identity within that guys have bought into and now they are reaping the benefits of their hard work.”
Defensive end Charles Johnson said the team just had to learn to get over that hump and win games.
“We had too many games where we ended a close game with a loss,” Johnson said. “We have to keep reiterating to ourselves to get over this hump and win it on defense. Everybody was on the same page and when everybody’s on the same page, buying into the scheme and doing the right thing, you will end up being successful.”
The Panthers (6-3) face another stiff challenge Monday night when they host the New England Patriots in a nationally televised game.
They can’t wait.
“We’re going to come out and hit them in the mouth with a nasty attitude,” Hardy said.
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