Yes, the Carolina Panthers won the NFC South last year, but after finishing with a losing record (7-8-1) – and after losing Kelvin Benjamin to a torn ACL in the preseason – not a whole lot was expected from them in 2015.
Well, the Panthers are 5-0 and coming off a win over the Seahawks in Seattle.
How do those skeptics sound right about now?
“I don’t think anybody’s worried about what anyone’s saying about us,” Panthers safety Kurt Coleman said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench “Because at the beginning of the season, everyone was counting us out and now people are trying to say we’re doing really well. But I really think that throughout training camp what we put in, our foundation that we’ve laid, everybody just believes what we’re doing. We know we are a tough team. We know we’re a physical team, we’re a smart team. But we know when it comes down to it, we’re going to get that extra yard. We’re going to get that extra stop. I think having a defensive-minded head coach (Ron Rivera) only reaffirms what we’re doing on defense. He said, ‘There’s a reason why defense wins championships – because you don’t have to give up any points and you can score. The offense can only score.’ So as a defense, we believe that we have to hold teams and we have to be able to get scores. And I mean with Josh Norman playing lights out, (it’s great).”
Norman, who got into a scuffle with Cam Newton during training camp, has a league-leading four interceptions. He’s also forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and has two defensive touchdowns to go with eight passes defended.
“It’s fun,” Coleman said of playing with Norman. “It’s exhilarating. He’s a smart, smart player. For Josh, it took him two years to finally get his feet underneath him and in the third year – last year – he started to get a little more comfortable, and this year he’s playing like a superstar. He’s playing like a lockdown No. 1 corner – a guy that I know I don’t even have to worry about. I think he had one ball thrown his way last week. he’s that type of corner that when you put him out there, he’s going to get the job done. It’s a blessing to play with him. It’s fun. He’s never going to back down from a challenge.”
The Panthers host Coleman’s former team, the Eagles (3-3), on Sunday Night Football this week. You would think Rivera would ask Coleman for advice on how to attack the Philly defense.
“He hasn’t even asked me because all that matters is what we do,” Coleman said. “If we line up, we execute our defense and we execute our offense and our special teams, we’re able to dictate a lot of things. I know with the tempo offense of Chip and Philly, they try to really (score fast). The negative side of that is if they get three-and-outs they put their defense right back on the field. So I think for us, you got to be able to control the tempo, control the pace of the game, run the ball and really hold the ball a lot. But defensively, we got to get them out of rhythm.”