2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Panthers defense learning how to close out games

By STEVE REED - AP Sports Writer
    2013-11-11 17:09

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Panthers have allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL, the second-fewest yards and have forced 21 turnovers this season.

And now they're figuring out how to win close games.

That's a dangerous combination for a team on a five-game winning streak and playing with a ton of 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 the 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.

The Panthers are no longer afraid to lose games; they're eager to win them.

They've developed a noticeable swagger.

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 Buffalo game is one that still stings.

The Panthers allowed rookie quarterback EJ Manuel to move his team 80 yards for the winning touchdown in the final 1:39 without any timeouts.

Carolina has since won six of seven, and its defense ranks among the top five in almost every major statistical category.

The Panthers have been particularly tough after halftime, allowing just 24 second half points in their six wins.

Only two teams this season have scored more than 15 points against the Panthers.

For those critics who felt like Carolina's record was a mirage given its previous five wins had come against teams with a combined 8-33 record, Sunday showed that the Panthers are for real.

Carolina's front seven was expected to be strong coming into the season with the addition of defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, the team's top two draft picks.

But questions lingered about a young and inexperienced secondary and the injury to starting free safety Charles Godfrey in week two only heightened that concern.

But others have stepped up.

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.''

But it's not just the veterans that are producing.

The Panthers are getting contributions from their rookie class.

At one key point during Sunday's game the Panthers had five rookies on the field - Lotulelei and Short, linebacker AJ Klein, cornerback Melvin White and safety Robert Lester. White and Lester are undrafted free agents.

''We're playing young guys who have learned very quickly,'' Rivera said. ''These guys know what we want them to do.''

Defensive end Charles Johnson said the Panthers just had to learn to get over that hump and win games.

And now they have.

''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 next 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.

---

AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org

---

Follow Steve Reed on Twitter: http://twitter.com/SteveReedAP

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Trent RichardsonJan 27 10:43a

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson's one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team voided the guarantee of a $3,184,062 salary in 2015.

Josh GordonJan 26 02:13p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon is in Stage Three of an alcohol program, which requires him to be tested for alcohol for a minimum of two years. His failed [ More ]

Rob GronkowskiJan 26 02:03p

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski could cause a problem for the Seattle Seahawks during Super Bowl XLIX, because the Seahawks defense allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends this [ More ]

Earl ThomasJan 26 02:03p

Seattle Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (shoulder) said he won't miss the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots with a dislocated shoulder, but he also admitted that it won't [ More ]

Odell Beckham Jr.Jan 26 01:52p

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) said he'll need to shut himself down this offseason in order to enter 2015 fully healthy and in great shape. He [ More ]

Josh GordonJan 26 12:33p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon tested positive for alcohol, according to sources, and his failed test will subject him to a possible one-year suspension. Gordon caught 24 passes for [ More ]

Vontaze BurfictJan 26 12:23p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (knee) is recovering from microfracture surgery on his left knee, and the surgeon who operated on him is hoping that he will be at [ More ]

Odell Beckham Jr.Jan 26 11:22a

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) said he played this season with two tears in his right hamstring, which never fully healed.

Josh GordonJan 25 09:12p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon will be under contract through the 2016 season, and he will only be a restricted free agent after that year due to his looming [ More ]

Josh GordonJan 25 04:12p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon has reportedly failed another drug test and will be subject to a one-year banishment, according to multiple league sources.

Earl ThomasJan 23 09:02p

Seattle Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (shoulder) will play in the Super Bowl, head coach Pete Carroll said Friday, Jan. 23.

Dennis PittaJan 23 04:22p

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) met with some specialists last week, but the team is not expected to have an update on his status for a few weeks, [ More ]

Johnny ManzielJan 23 01:12p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel had a big proponent last year in owner Jimmy Haslam, but Haslam now thinks the team needs a quarterback in order to get their [ More ]

Jimmy GrahamJan 23 10:32a

New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder) said he'll rehabilitate his shoulder injury after the Pro Bowl, but he hasn't made a final decision on surgery. 'It's something we [ More ]

Mark IngramJan 22 06:42p

New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram, who will be eligible for free agency this offseason, wants to return to the team next year, and he thinks the interest is [ More ]

Vernon DavisJan 22 06:22p

San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis had just two touchdowns in 2014, and they both came in Week 1. He also wasn't targeted at all in the red zone [ More ]

Geno SmithJan 22 05:32p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith has a lot of talent and promise, according to new head coach Todd Bowles. At the same time, Bowles acknowledged that the quarterback [ More ]

Brian HoyerJan 22 04:52p

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer could be re-signed this offseason, according to his agent. Hoyer is expected to meet with general manager Ray Farmer and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in the near future.

Johnny ManzielJan 22 02:43p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel will be working with a new offensive coordinator this year in John DeFilippo, but DeFilippo is unsure if the team's quarterback next year is [ More ]

Joe FlaccoJan 22 12:52p

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco will have his fourth difference offensive coordinator in as many years in offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. However, head coach John Harbaugh is confident Flacco [ More ]

Tom BradyJan 22 10:12a

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is now scheduled to speak to the media Thursday, Jan. 22, and he could come under fire due to the report of deflated [ More ]

Vontaze BurfictJan 21 09:03p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (knee) has had knee surgery, head coach Marvin Lewis confirmed Wednesday, Jan. 21. While there has been concern Burfict might have to begin the [ More ]

Mike WallaceJan 21 09:03p

Miami Dolphins WR Mike Wallace's future with the team is unclear. General manager Dennis Hickey would not say Wednesday, Jan. 21, whether Wallace will be back or if his [ More ]

Johnny ManzielJan 21 04:43p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel could benefit from new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, according to Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr. Carr said DeFilippo will do great with Manziel, adding [ More ]

Richard ShermanJan 21 04:23p

Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman (elbow) said he will practice in a brace, but should not have any limitations on gameday.

Marc TrestmanJan 21 03:53p

Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said he wants to learn the specificities of the team's offense instead of changing it. Head coach John Harbaugh said Trestman's familiarity and [ More ]

Blake BortlesJan 21 03:43p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles should be able to develop under new offensive coordinator Greg Olson, according to general manager Dave Caldwell. Caldwell said Olson has the ability to [ More ]

Blake BortlesJan 21 03:13p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles developed bad habits and may need to start over, in the opinion of NFL Films guru Greg Cosell.

Latavius MurrayJan 21 12:53p

Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray is likely to be the team's lead back in 2015, and new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave plans tailor his system to Murray's talents. Musgrave [ More ]

Peyton ManningJan 21 11:03a

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning plans to return in 2015, pending the results of his annual physical, according to three sources The Denver Post's Woody Paige trusts. The test [ More ]

Rashad JenningsJan 21 10:23a

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings could have a veteran running back to complement or compete with him next season. The team could possibly add a change-of-pace back and [ More ]

Trent RichardsonJan 21 09:13a

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson was suspended and deactivated for the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 18.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group