CHARLOTTE – For another week, the Panthers, losers of four consecutive games and winless in their last five, can say the NFC South division lead is right there within striking distance.
But they won't be able to say that much longer if their play doesn't improve.
"I don't know if I'll be able to say this next week if we don't play well," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "But right now, everything that we set out to do we can accomplish."
The players are frustrated with the way they've played and the 3-6-1 record that has resulted. But Carolina's playoff hopes have not yet been extinguished, and the Panthers need to embrace that.
"As bad as we've played in the past, we still have this opportunity right now and we need to seize it while it's here," Davis said. "We have to win right now. Guys have to step their game up, including myself."
Carolina's next game has significant NFC South implications. The 3-6 Atlanta Falcons travel to Bank of America Stadium on Sunday looking to overtake the Panthers in the standings.
"It doesn't get any bigger than this. This one is by far the most important because of what's at stake," Davis said. "That's what guys need to lock in on."
So how do the Panthers lock in and break their four-game skid?
"You do it on the practice field. You put extra work in. You get in your playbook and watch more film on the team you are getting ready to play than they are watching on you," Davis said. "You find ways to beat the guy lined up across from you."
Davis, a four-time captain, is doing his best to lead and get Carolina back on track. He knows the Panthers are capable of a turnaround, but he also knows there isn't any time to waste.
"We have to play a complete game as a team," Davis said. "We have the guys in the locker room to get it done. We have to go out and do it.
"Time is ticking."