CHARLOTTE – Wide receiver Philly Brown's contributions, especially late in the season, can't be overlooked or overstated.
In last week's NFC South championship in Atlanta, Brown touched the ball three times and gained 69 yards.
"It's good to be more involved and be able to contribute to this run that we're making," Brown said. "It all goes back to the trust that the coaches have in me."
He carried the ball twice on end-arounds – the first of which went for 28 yards on third-and-one. His lone reception also picked up 28 yards.
"I think Philly is a guy who doesn't get enough credit for what he does," tight end Greg Olsen said. "He's been huge for us a rookie who came in with not a lot of expectations in the offseason, and he's carved out a significant role."
Others may not have had a lot of expectations for the undrafted rookie from Ohio State, but Brown's self-confidence – along with his game-breaking speed – has been one of his biggest assets.
After recording 145 catches for 1,750 yards and 15 touchdowns as a three-year starter with the Buckeyes, Brown expected to be drafted. It upset him when he wasn't. So when Carolina signed him, he entered the NFL fully expecting to contribute and contribute early.
It just took a little longer for everyone else to realize he was right. Brown finished the season with a team-leading average of 14.1 yards per catch on 21 receptions for 296 yards and two touchdowns.
"It was just a matter of finding opportunities, and it got to the point where we had to create opportunities," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I decided it was time to make the move and get him out there. I felt that was important."
Veteran Jason Avant's mid-season release paved the way for Brown to step in as the team's No. 3 wide receiver, and he's been making plays ever since.
"Philly was kind of showing us by his actions and his production that he was earning the right for more playing time," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "For a rookie, he's got a lot of poise. He's got a very good understanding of the passing game – route running and all that kind of stuff. Plus, he's got good speed. We wanted to start pushing that."
Brown's speed has an effect on the entire offense, and consequently, opposing defenses.
Brown has been used in a variety of ways – from the run game to the deep passing game. His whereabouts put stress on a defense, and he helps create space for Carolina's top receiving targets. And, of course, his speed makes him dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands.
"To be able to go out and make plays, you have that feeling of doing something good," Brown said, "and you want to do more of it."