|It's in the bag: Carolina Panthers sack Minnesota in 31-24 win|
|Defensive pressure on Vikings' Keenum key|
|Published Sunday, December 10, 2017 5:47 pm|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|Carolina Panthers safety Jarius Bryrd, 31, pressures Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum during the Panthers' 31-24 win Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina (9-4) sacked Keenum six times – a season high.|
The Carolina Panthers’ pass rush resembles their 2015 Super Bowl run.
A 31-24 victory Sunday against Minnesota came down to six sacks for the Panthers—which tied their season high – and the most allowed by the Vikings this season. Carolina’s (9-4) emphasis on experience at defensive end is paying off with Julius Peppers, 37, and Mario Addison, 30, leading the Panthers with 9.5 sacks each. Peppers’ sack of Minnesota (10-3) quarterback Case Keenum in the second quarter and Addison’s strip-sack in the third kicked off a one-two-three progression over the final three quarters.
“You’ve got two legends—I’m going to say two legends, Mario and Pep,” defensive tackle Kyle Love said. “It’s just amazing to be beside those guys. I’m just trying to get sacks with them. I say all the time that it’s like a dream come true just to play beside Pep, because I watched him in high school.”
Said coach Ron Rivera: “That’s pretty cool. It really is, to have the two of them play the way they have. To see the way our push was today, I thought those guys were outstanding.”
Love got in on the sack train in the third quarter. He has 3.5 this season.
“Right now, I’m hearing a lot of rumors that we’re the best D-line in the league,” Love said. “I’m kind of liking that right now.”
Said defensive tackle Kawann Short, who had Carolina’s final two sacks against the Vikings and six this season: “Them boys, man. You’ve got a legend right there [Peppers], and Mario is a young legend. You just see these guys out there playing, and doing what they are doing. You got Kyle Love right here. They are just playing good ball, man. As an inside player, you want to feed off those guys’ motivation, and that is what we did today.”
Jacksonville leads the league with 45 sacks over 12 games, followed by Pittsburgh’s 40 over as many games, and Carolina’s 40 in 13 contests. Eleven Panthers have at least one sack. Their six sacks against Minnesota ties a season high.
Players credit that to the dynamic of first-season defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. Increased pressure allowed cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley to push up in coverage, which resulted in their first interceptions of the season.
“Upstairs, coach Wilks called a hell of a game,” Short said. “It takes us to execute the call, and it starts with communication. You see that today. If everybody had a mic, you’d see that and you’d hear that. The communication was outstanding.”
Said Bradberry: “I saw Daryl make a great play [in the first quarter], and I knew I had to come out there and make something happen, because that’s who I try to compete against. It’s very exciting that we were able to get our first interceptions in the same game. We know we have a great front seven—probably the best front seven in the league right now. We know they’re going to get after the quarterback, and he’s not going to have a longtime to throw the ball. It gives us the confidence on the back end covering the receivers.”
Said Worley: “That’s just us doing our part on the defense. We had opportunities earlier in the year, which we didn’t take advantage of. We just have to keep pushing forward. In practice, that’s one thing we focus on—competing and getting to the ball.”
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