Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers tackle eyes familiar target

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was giving an interview at his locker Thursday when linebacker Thomas Davis approached him and listened in.

Davis was told Lotulelei had faced Arizona Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley – who will start against the Panthers on Saturday in an NFC wild-card game – when both played in the Mountain West Conference.

“Did you put him on his back?” Davis asked Lotulelei.

“No.”

“Looking forward to putting him on his back this week?” Davis asked.

“Of course,” Lotulelei said.

Lotulelei put Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan on his back twice last week in the Panthers’ division-clinching 34-3 win at the Georgia Dome. Lotulelei finished with career highs with seven tackles and two sacks – his first two sacks of the season.

And while the Cardinals’ quarterback problems – Lindley is the team’s No. 3 quarterback – are a big reason why the Panthers are six-point favorites, Lotulelei said the 6-foot-3, 232-pound Lindley should not be overlooked.

Lotulelei played at Utah while Lindley was starring at San Diego State, where he set school and conference records for completions, attempts, passing yards and total yards.

“He had all kinds of records at San Diego (State). He could throw all the passes in college,” Lotulelei said. “We’ve seen the same out of him on film, especially in that Seattle game. He was throwing some deep balls early in that Seattle game. So we know he can make all the throws if we give him that time.”

Lindley completed only 18 of 44 passes for 216 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception, in the Cardinals’ 35-6 loss to the Seahawks in Week 16.

He also had six completions of at least 15 yards in that game, however, though three came in the fourth quarter with the Cardinals (11-5) trailing big.

Lindley lost his two starts against Seattle and San Francisco after replacing the injured Drew Stanton, who had replaced injured starting quarterback Carson Palmer. Arizona coach Bruce Arians ruled Stanton out Thursday, meaning Lotulelei will get another crack at sacking Lindley.

“We’ve got to get after him early and fast,” Lotulelei said.

Lotulelei, the first-round pick in 2013, didn’t start fast in his second season. He missed two games near midseason with an ankle injury and had eight games in which he finished with one tackle or fewer.

But he ended the regular season on a high note and said he hopes to keep it going in the postseason.

“It mostly meant more because we won the game, and it was such a big game to get us into the playoffs,” Lotulelei said. “That’s what meant more than the stats or anything like that.”

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