A month before the Carolina Panthers reported to training camp, Thomas Davis told hundreds at the Charlotte Touchdown Club the team had what it took to be the No. 1 defense in the league.
After Sunday’s 27-6 win against Tampa Bay, the Panthers have lived up to Davis’ words.
The Panthers (9-3) have the top-ranked defense in the NFL in both points allowed and yards allowed after Sunday’s win, and barring Seattle holding Drew Brees and New Orleans to season-low numbers, Carolina will keep that title going into Sunday’s showdown against the Saints.
“I felt like with the new pieces that we added up front, having the linebacking corps solidified, I felt like we could definitely make a run for the No.1 defense in the league,” Davis said recently about his summer proclamation. “No one believed me when I said it, but keep watching.”
Carolina’s defense has allowed 289.8 yards per game and 13.1 points per contest through 12 games this season. Only three times this year has a team scored more than one touchdown against Carolina, and the Panthers average one touchdown allowed per game.
“They’re seeing the fruits of their labor, which is good,” defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. “And it helps the buy-in. The guys are playing extremely hard. I couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve done on the field.
“I feel good about it. I acknowledge that. Yet at the same time you’ve got Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense staring you right in the face right now.”
For Panthers coach Ron Rivera, this isn’t the first time he’s had a top-ranked NFL defense. Rivera was the Chargers defensive coordinator in 2010 when San Diego finished as the No. 1 defense, allowing 271.6 yards per game. The following season he became the Panthers head coach.
“The one thing is it is only Week 13, we have four more games left to play and we’ll see after that where we stand,” Rivera said. “That’s probably more important than anything else. Figures lie and liars figure, because it is a stat. And the only one that really does matter is obviously wins and losses, but I am happy for the guys because the players play hard.
“That’s one of their goals, to be the No. 1 defense, to be a playoff-caliber defense and they most certainly are working like it. They’ve done a great job, deservedly so, to get some credit, be acknowledged for what they’ve done so far. But again, we still have four left to play.”
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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