CHARLOTTE – Carolina's defensive performance Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals was historic. And the Panthers needed it to keep their season alive.
Carolina surrendered 78 total yards – an NFL record for the fewest yards allowed in a postseason game.
"This was special," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "There was a point in the game where we really felt like it didn't matter where the ball was, we were going to execute. We came away with one of the most dominant performances in playoff history."
Due to injuries to their starter, Carson Palmer, and backup, Drew Stanton, Arizona entered the game with third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley directing the offense. That created one primary objective for the Panthers: don't let him rely on a running game.
"We played the run very well," head coach Ron Rivera said. "That was more of a key than anything else."
The Cardinals rushed 15 times for 27 yards. Their longest rush gained nine yards.
"The first thing we knew we had to do was stop the run," linebacker Luke Kuechly said. "We had to do that early, and once they started throwing the ball the coaches put a good game plan together that allowed us to get after the passer."
When Lindley dropped back to throw, the Panthers' pass-rushing sharks could smell blood in the water.
"The blood comes out, and the sharks are going to be hunting," said defensive end Charles Johnson, who recorded two of Carolina's four sacks.
Lindley completed 16-of-28 passes for 82 yards and was intercepted twice. The Carolina secondary blanketed his receivers and made the Cardinals work for every yard.
"We played physical. We challenged those guys. We understood what they wanted to do, and we took it away from them," safety Roman Harper said. "I'm just really proud to be a part of a performance that great."
Carolina's defense is oozing with confidence right now, and rightfully so. The unit has come together at the right time, and they've earned the right to take the field again.
"We've got guys that are fitting into their roles and are stepping up big time," Johnson said. "That's what it's all about."