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Defense at high level for Panthers
The Carolina Panthers are doing their best work on the defensive side of the ball and that follows the lead of their head coach, who likes the hard-nosed approach.
Ron Rivera also isn't shying away from building confidence as the Panthers head into the third game of the season. With the New Orleans Saints arriving for Sunday afternoon's game, it marks the first matchup of the season against an NFC South Division opponent.
"This is going to be a good football team," Rivera said of his Panthers. "People better not sleep on them."
The Panthers have just the seventh 2-0 start in franchise history. Three of those have come in a four-year span.
Carolina has held its first two opponents to a combined 7-for-28 on third downs.
Much of it comes from strategy because the Panthers aren't just lining up with the notion that their defenders are going to overwhelm the opposition.
"We ran different types of pressures," Rivera said. "We ran zone pressures. We ran man pressures. We played zone coverage. We played man coverage."
So the Panthers are mixing it up, all along keeping the mindset that a physical brand of football is going to suit them best.
"We always know defense wins games, that is our philosophy," defensive end Mario Addison said.
The defense has set a standard during the opening weeks of the season. That has been critical as the offense has been challenged.
There needs to be better work from the offensive line because otherwise quarterback Cam Newton is going to be vulnerable. Plus, the rushing attack hasn't fully been cut loose as the backs are finding it difficult to accelerate before being hit.
But linebacker Luke Kuechly said he has seen the team excel in different stages of a season, so there's no reason for alarm.
"That's what makes this game so fun is there are three phases and when one phase isn't playing up to what they want to do, the other phases step up," Kuechly said. "Those guys (on offense) will be fine and I'm sure at some point this season they're going to pick us up, too."
SERIES HISTORY: 45th regular-season meeting. Panthers lead series, 24-20. Panthers have won four of the last five meetings vs. Saints. They've also won four of the last five matchups at home against their NFC South rivals.