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Gamble secures record, not ball


CHARLOTTE - Chris Gamble has kept the football from each of his 26 career interceptions - save one.

Gamble didn't secure the last one, the record-setting one.

"I was upset about the game. I was thinking about that and kind of forgot about it, just trying to focus on the game," said Gamble, who set the Panthers' career interception record in last Sunday's 30-3 loss to Tennessee. "I don't have the ball, but I have the record."

Gamble's pick of Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the third quarter put him ahead of Eric Davis in team annals. Gamble, who didn't have any interceptions in 2010 but now has two this season to tie and then break Davis' record, feels he should have claimed the mark long ago.

Last Sunday, however, there was something that Gamble wanted more than the individual record.

"I wish it was the other way around, that we could have come up with the win instead of me getting an interception, but it is an honor to have that record, finally," Gamble said. "We were in man-to-man, and I took a look back at the quarterback and saw he was getting ready to throw the ball. I just broke on the ball and picked it off."

The Panthers will need Gamble and his secondary mates to step up even more this Sunday in Detroit, when they face Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who leads the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions and ranks third (behind Wes Welker of the Patriots and Steve Smith of the Panthers) with 98.3 receiving yards per game.

"He's a great receiver, a big receiver. I've just got to stay in front of him, keep him in front of me and do my best," Gamble said. "I like playing against No. 1 receivers. I like the challenge. I'm trying to get better too, trying to do what I can do."

The Panthers rank 14th in the NFL in pass defense, but just three teams have fewer than their five interceptions. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, however, is pleased with what he's gotten out of starting cornerbacks Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn and believes they could be up to the task.

"Chris is having a tremendous year," Rivera said. "We've tried to put him in position to make things happen, and he's done that for us.

"Captain has played very well. If you look at the things he's done and how much he's progressed and improved, he's a guy that you can pull for. You want to see him succeed because of how hard he works. He's a tough guy, a physical player, and a smart player who is learning."

Gamble and Munnerlyn will need assistance from safeties Sherrod Martin and Charles Godfrey. Martin, who is tied with Gamble for the team lead with two interceptions, said the secondary is excited about taking on Johnson and Co.

"He's a great athlete who makes plays. He's got good hands, speed and height," Martin said. "It's going to be a big challenge to contain him, but the challenge is why we play the game."

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