Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers ramp up run defense, improve to No. 2 in NFL

Robert Turbin (23) and the Dallas Cowboys never found much running room against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The Cowboys finished with 31 yards rushing.
Robert Turbin (23) and the Dallas Cowboys never found much running room against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The Cowboys finished with 31 yards rushing. Getty Images

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera looked up at the enormous videoboard in Dallas on Thursday to see what went wrong during a run that matched the Cowboys’ longest of the game.

The fact Rivera was concerned about an 8-yard rush by Darren McFadden – and that it was replayed as a highlight at AT&T Stadium – says a lot about the state of both teams, particularly as it relates to the Panthers’ run defense.

After allowing a franchise-low 14 rushing yards in a Week 11 win against Washington, the Panthers gave up 31 yards on the ground in their 33-14 dismantling of Dallas.

The 45 combined rushing yards are the fewest in a two-game stretch in team history and vaulted the Panthers from eighth to second in the NFL in rushing defense with 88.7 yards allowed per game.

While it helped that the Panthers jumped out to big leads in both games and prompted their opponent to throw more often, Carolina’s front seven so thoroughly stuffed the run that Washington and Dallas were forced to abandon it.

Rivera said the defensive linemen have done a good job maintaining their gaps and not leaving themselves vulnerable to cutback runs.

Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards said the defensive coaches also deserve part of the credit.

“We’re prepared for all the runs we’re going to see,” Edwards said. “When we show up and stop the runs we’ve been preparing for all week, it’s pretty fun to go out there and see the same stuff you’ve been seeing all week.”

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