CHARLOTTE – Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott isn't shy about sharing his thoughts with his defensive unit.
McDermott does, however, have a sign up in the defensive team meeting room that speaks volumes for him.
"If I do my job and the guy next to me does his job - if everybody does their job - we can execute the play and get the job done," cornerback
Last Sunday, the Panthers allowed Matt Forte to become the first Chicago Bears running back since Walter Payton 34 years ago to top 200 rushing yards. This Sunday, they must tackle the NFL's second-ranked offense when quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints visit Bank of America Stadium.
The Panthers rank next-to-last in the NFL in rushing defense and 25th out of 32 teams in scoring defense. The unit is, however, 14th in total defense and sixth against the pass.
The performance against Chicago has many observers concerned, but McDermott is keeping it in perspective: Fourteen of the 34 points yielded to the Bears came directly from touchdowns on defense and special teams.
"With 1:48 to go, we had given up 13 points and around 260, 270 yards," McDermott said. "Big picture-wise, you'd be happy with that at the end of the game, but unfortunately the last series got away from us. The run game overall and the last drive in particular are the biggest things we have to address moving forward as a defense.
"But we've been in every game against top-flight competition. There are a lot of good 1-3 teams out there, and I feel like we're one of those. It's how we respond to the situation that will dictate our future and how we'll go throughout the rest of the season."
McDermott is stressing how important it is that each member of the 11-man defensive unit do his individual job – no more, no less – especially in light of some of the unique challenges facing the group.
For one thing, defensive players are enduring on-the-job training, both because this is McDermott's first season and because the current starting lineup includes two rookies, one second-year player and three third-year players.
"We're building," McDermott said. "We've got some good, young defensive football players, and I think our young players have played beyond their years. That said, it hasn't been perfect."
For one thing, young players sometimes try to do too much, to do more than "1/11th."
"It's being overly aggressive and trying to do a little bit more than your job," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "The big things guys have to understand is that this defense is accountability-based.
"In certain situations, it asks you to be in one specific spot. If you get to that spot and everybody is where they're supposed to be, there's no place for the ball to go."
McDermott said some of the mistakes are borne out of the all-out effort the defense is displaying – something he certainly won't complain about.
"There's no team that plays harder than us," McDermott said. "We're going to come out every week and have a chance to win the football game, and that's a credit to our players and the coaches. We've just got to get some things tightened up.
"There's a familiarity with the scheme that comes into play a little bit, and there's a little bit of baptism by fire because we've got some young players in that room that need more experience, that are learning on the run. But you can't question the effort."
"Would you like to have Jon Beason, Thomas Davis,
And the Panthers, with McDermott at the helm, believe the best is yet to come.
"We just have to stay together," defensive end
"Whenever it clicks, it's going to click in a big way."