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Aggressive defensive effort pays off

CHARLOTTE – It wasn't so much adjustment as it was amplification.

In the second half of Sunday's game against the Buccaneers, the Panthers decided to turn up the pressure on Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown.

They had success blitzing in the first half, and they simply needed to do it more. And if they didn't blitz, they needed to win battles at the line of scrimmage and create pressure.

"That was most certainly what happened," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We got more aggressive. (Defensive coordinator) Sean McDermott called a more aggressive second half to try and create some more pressure against the quarterback.

"We felt the pressure we brought later in the second quarter is what we had to continue to stick with."

On the third play of the second half, Tampa Bay faced third-and-15 from its own 15-yard line. The Panthers didn't blitz this time, but they didn't need to.

Carolina rushed four, and defensive ends Charles Johnson and Mario Addison converged on McCown in pocket. Addison then reached in and forced the ball loose.

"CJ got him off his spot, and I hit him from the side and ripped the ball out," Addison said. "We needed that ball, that's why I reached for it instead of just getting a half sack. I went for the ball."

Defensive tackle Kawann Short pounced on the loose ball at the Buccaneer's 4-yard line, setting up the Panthers offense for the go-ahead touchdown, which gave them a 16-10 lead.

"We put the offense in position to get going," Short said.

And the defensive pressure continued.

"The second half we put more pressure on him," Addison said. "I'm glad McDermott put a few more pressures in there, and we executed."

Safety Roman Harper converted one of those blitzes into a takeaway by hitting McCown's arm as he threw to force a fumble that cornerback Bene Benwikere recovered.

If McCown wasn't getting disrupted inside the pocket, he was getting routinely flushed out of it. As a result, the timing of Tampa Bay's passing offense was thrown off, and McCown completed just 13-of-28 attempts.

"Passing game could never get totally in sync," Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith said. "A lot of it had to do with them."

The game was won on Carolina's third takeaway, and it was a four-man rush that made it happen.

Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards forced McCown to scramble out of the pocket and attempt an off-balance pass that was easily intercepted by linebacker Luke Kuechly in the closing seconds.

"On the defensive line, we don't stop," Short said. "We keep going, and good things will happen."

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