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

Peyton ManningDec 19 07:42p

Updating a previous report, Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning (thigh) was officially limited in practice Friday, Dec. 19, but he threw more than he did than the day prior, [ More ]

Frank GoreDec 19 05:42p

San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore (concussion) was limited in practice Friday, Dec. 19, and is questionable for Week 16.

Keenan AllenDec 19 04:42p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) and WR Keenan Allen (shoulder, ankle) have been ruled out for Week 16 against the San Francisco 49ers.

Cam NewtonDec 19 04:12p

Updating previous reports, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (back) has yet to officially be cleared to play in Week 16 against the Cleveland Browns, but head coach Ron Rivera [ More ]

T Y HiltonDec 19 02:32p

Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) missed practice all week but is questionable for Week 16 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Peyton ManningDec 19 02:22p

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning (thigh) was back to a full practice Friday, Dec. 19, after being limited Thursday, Dec. 18. Manning made several strong throws in the portion open to the media.

T Y HiltonDec 19 02:12p

Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) missed practice again Friday, Dec. 19, and RTV6's Mike Chappell is convinced that Hilton will not play in Week 16 against the Dallas Cowboys.

C.J. SpillerDec 19 12:53p

Buffalo Bills RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder) has been added to the active roster and is probable for Week 16 against the Oakland Raiders.

Cam NewtonDec 19 12:52p

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (back) is listed as probable for Week 16 against the Cleveland Browns.

Blake BortlesDec 19 12:12p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles (foot) completed only 13 passes for 115 yards in the win over the Tennessee Titans Thursday, Dec. 18, but he didn't show any signs [ More ]

T Y HiltonDec 19 11:52a

Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) is not participating in the portion of practice open to the media Friday, Dec. 19.

Julio JonesDec 19 11:22a

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (hip) is not participating in portion of practice open to the media Friday, Dec. 19.

DeMarco MurrayDec 19 10:52a

Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray (hand) is likely to play in Week 16, according to a source. Murray has a high threshold for pain, and according to the source, [ More ]

Eddie LacyDec 19 10:12a

Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy (eye) said he wasn't able to read a teammate's nameplate a few feet away in the locker room Thursday, Dec. 18. Lacy said [ More ]

Leon WashingtonDec 18 11:32p

Tennessee Titans RB Leon Washington caught a team-high seven passes for 62 yards and a touchdown in the team's 21-13 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday, Dec. 18. He [ More ]

Philip RiversDec 18 11:22p

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers (back) looked good throwing the ball in the practice Thursday, Dec. 18, according to head coach Mike McCoy. 'Philip had an outstanding day,' [ More ]

Peyton ManningDec 18 07:22p

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning (thigh, illness) said his illness is behind him, and he was receiving treatment for his thigh Thursday, Dec. 18. Head coach John Fox called Manning day-to-day.

Roy MillerDec 18 07:12p

The Jacksonville Jaguars have declared DL Andre Branch, CB Jeremy Harris, SS Matt Daniels, DL Roy Miller, CB Teddy Williams, WR Tommy Streeter, OG Tyler Shatley inactive for Week 16.

Tommy StreeterDec 18 07:12p

The Jacksonville Jaguars have declared DL Andre Branch, CB Jeremy Harris, SS Matt Daniels, DL Roy Miller, CB Teddy Williams, WR Tommy Streeter, OG Tyler Shatley inactive for Week 16.

Kendall WrightDec 18 07:12p

Tennessee Titans WR Kendall Wright (hand) is active for Week 16 after being limited in practice all week.

Frank GoreDec 18 07:02p

San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore (concussion) continues through the concussion protocol this week, but head coach Jim Harbaugh anticipates Gore suiting up in Week 16 against the San [ More ]

Julius ThomasDec 18 06:52p

Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) played just 29 snaps in Week 15; only ten of them were pass routes, according to Pro Football Focus.

Rashad JenningsDec 18 06:12p

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (ankle) did not practice Thursday, Dec. 18.

Carlos HydeDec 18 05:52p

San Francisco 49ers RB Carlos Hyde (ankle) did not practice Thursday, Dec. 18.

DeAndre HopkinsDec 18 05:42p

Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) did not practice for the second straight day Thursday, Dec. 18.

Blake BortlesDec 18 04:22p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles has earned positive reviews from the team in his rookie season after being thrust into the spotlight early this year. 'That is not the [ More ]

Jay CutlerDec 18 04:12p

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler was benched just for this week against the Detroit Lions, according to head coach Marc Trestman. Cutler will be active and serve as the [ More ]

DeAngelo WilliamsDec 18 04:02p

Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (hand) will be fitted cast that he can play with on his injured hand. Williams still has not caught a pass with the injured [ More ]

Rashad JenningsDec 18 04:02p

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (ankle) has not been able to do any running this week, according to head coach Tom Coughlin.

Ryan MathewsDec 18 03:42p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (ankle) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 18.

Cam NewtonDec 18 02:52p

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (back) fully participated in practice Thursday, Dec. 18, and appears to be on track to start in Week 16, according to head coach Ron Rivera.

DeMarco MurrayDec 18 02:42p

Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray (hand), who was expected to take some team snaps in practice Thursday, Dec. 18, is in no more risk if he plays in Week [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group