CHARLOTTE – The stats are promising for the Panthers defense.
Carolina ranks third in the NFL in yards allowed per game (301.5) and third in points allowed per game (14.5).
The Week 5 outing at Arizona was another strong statistical effort from the Panthers defense.
"When you look at the yardage – 250 yards and three takeaways – I was proud of them for that," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "I was proud of the way the guys kept battling. They kept fighting and playing hard, giving us a chance."
Despite that effort, the Panthers suffered a 22-6 defeat.
"The fact is we didn't win the game," McDermott said.
Three interceptions weren't enough to produce a victory, but McDermott categorized all three as "big time plays." Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, strong safety Mike Mitchell and rookie free safety Robert Lester all picked off Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. For Lester, that makes two interceptions in two career starts.
"He's got the hot hand," McDermott said. "We're going to stay with him as long as we can. He's done a great job and it really comes back to his preparation. He's very coachable and has great instincts.
"He's asserted himself more which has been outstanding."
The Panthers next challenge comes in the form of Vikings All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, who ranks second in the NFL in rushing.
"It'll be a great matchup. We've got to stop him," McDermott said. "He's the best back in the league, but we feel like we're pretty good on defense."
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula was pleased with his unit's ability to move the ball in the first half against Arizona – a half in which the Panthers outgained the Cardinals 259 yards to 118.
But the offense's progress came to a halt in the red zone.
"Disappointing and just frustrating, because I really liked the way we moved the ball in the first half," Shula said. "To move it like we did and just have a few points to show for it – we're a better offense than that.
"Starting with me, all of us need to keep coaching and playing our butt off. Keep working on our consistency and get the ball in the end zone."
Dropped balls, penalties and protection breakdowns contributed to Carolina's inability to reach the end zone against a stingy Cardinals defense.
"A perfect game has never been played. But if you can minimize those mistakes while you are getting better and doing some things that help us stay on the field, we are going to get points," Shula said.
"You have to forget about (the mistakes) and keep going. That's the sign of an offense with confidence."
Arizona sacked quarterback Cam Newton seven times, and Shula said it was a combination of things that led to a sack total that equaled the most sacks allowed in franchise history.
"At times, we've got to be a little better up front so we have the adequate amount of time to get the ball out," Shula said. "Other times, the ball has got to come out quicker.
"That includes everybody – the (play) design, the guys being where they need to be on time and Cam seeing it."
A season-ending knee injury to starting left guard Amini Silatolu is a new challenge Shula and the Panthers will be forced to overcome up front.
"Whoever we do put in there has got to step up," Shula said. "That's part of football."