CHARLOTTE – After harping on the need to create takeaways, defensive coordinator Eric Washington loved what he saw against the Ravens this past Sunday.
The Panthers picked off quarterback Joe Flacco twice while also forcing and recovering a fumble deep in Baltimore territory. Carolina also produced a fourth-down stop for a turnover on downs in the second half.
Thus, the primary theme of this week's "film review" is turnovers and how they happened.
Love starts second quarter with a bang
The first play of the second quarter was supposed to be a safe, simple handoff on second-and-4. Defensive tackle Kyle Love was having none of that.
"We had a line stunt called here, and Kyle does a nice job coming off the football, slanting to the adjacent gap and then redirecting his footwork. It's important to get that second step vertical," Washington says, "and we caught them in a favorable run concept."
Love shoots through the gap and collides with running back Alex Collins about six yards behind the line of scrimmage.
"We have a saying: 'Big men tackle big.' He made a violent tackle and clubbed his arms and dislodged the football from the running back. He wasn't just satisfied with making a tackle for loss," Washington says.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly is first to arrive on the scene, but he can't corral the loose ball. Defensive tackle Vernon Butler ultimately falls on it for the recovery, but Kuechly had the time and space to scoop and score.
"We have terms called 'country or city.' The term country means there is wide open space to scoop the ball up and advance it. When you think of city, it's crowded, lot of traffic. It's important at that point to use good judgement and possess the football.
"Here," Washington says, "this is classic country!"
"I know Luke is disappointed for not picking it up on the first bounce and putting it into the end zone. But we gave it back to the scoring experts and they did exactly what they needed to do a few plays later."
A sack on fourth down?
The Ravens are trailing 24-7 with 10:25 remaining in the third quarter when they decide to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Carolina 46.
Flacco takes the shotgun snap and looks right for tight end Mark Andrews, but safety Mike Adams' coverage forces him to look elsewhere.
By the time he makes his second read, Kuechly is all over him.
"We've got Luke as part of the rush effort and he does an exceptional job against the center. He flips his hips toward the center, which gives him a chance to follow through and affect the quarterback," Washington says, "KK Short stays viable and active. And we actually get the quarterback down for the sack."
The officials actually ruled that Flacco got rid of the ball before his knee hit the turf for an incompletion, taking away what should have been Kuechly's third sack of the season.
"Either way, a huge stop in the game."
Captain gets on the board
Nickel corner Captain Munnerlyn hadn't had an interception since 2015, but he was all over Flacco's pass to wide receiver Willie Snead IV to end that personal drought.
Snead lines up slot left and tries to run a post. Munnerlyn knew it was coming.
"Captain runs the route with the receiver," Washington says. "He knew going into the game what we were likely to get from Snead based on the personnel group and formation. He was ready to take advantage of this situation."
Munnerlyn picks off the pass that looks like it was almost intended for him. And Washington points out the rush affecting Flacco.
Carolina sends six after the quarterback, and Flacco's process is sped up as a result.
"This is what a lot of people don't appreciate – sacks are fantastic, but we want to affect and pressure the quarterback," Washington says, "When you collapse the pocket, accuracy is affected even if you don't put him on the ground."
Donte springs to 'Action'
The final play Washington examines comes courtesy of rookie cornerback Donte Jackson, who was matched up with big-play target John Brown for most of the game.
Brown's tremendous speed is always in the back of a defensive back's mind, but this time, on second-and-10 in the third quarter, the Ravens call for him to look for a back-shoulder pass.
"Baltimore is a big back-shoulder team," Washington says. "Donte understood that through preparation."
Jackson proceeds to play the spot-on pass flawlessly.
"Donte stops when Brown stops, and at that point you have to play the receiver's hands and eyes. As soon as his hands come up and his eyes start to widen, Donte reacts and knocks the ball away. Unbelievable coordination right here. Great job of not panicking and playing all the way through with technique."