CHARLOTTE – Recording a sack is difficult to do in the NFL, and there are a lot of factors that come into play – factors like the quickness of the quarterback's release, design of the play, double-teams, chips and more.
But all of those factors are irrelevant in the mind of defensive end Charles Johnson, who entered Week 5 against the Chicago Bears without a sack.
"I always take responsibility," Johnson said. "I'm a team player. If you want to blame somebody, you can blame me, because a big responsibility comes for me."
In his eight NFL season and the leader of the Panthers defensive line, Johnson works tirelessly during practice and works even more on his off day to ensure he's putting himself in the best position to record sacks.
"He's our leader, and we rally around him," defensive tackle Kawann Short said. "A lot of people have been doubting him, but we rallied behind him."
His efforts were rewarded on Sunday when he sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on third-and-nine in the fourth quarter. Johnson pounded his chest in celebration, releasing some pent up energy and frustration.
"It felt good," Johnson said. "But I am not satisfied."
He added a fumble recovery, tackle for loss and pass defensed in the victory. Johnson, who has totaled 55 career sacks with Carolina, needs one more sack to move into second place in franchise history.
"I think this was his best game of the year, no doubt about that," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "He was very active. He looked quick and decisive, which is part of being a good pass rusher, and he defended the run, too.
"I was happy to see him be more productive and get rewarded for some of his hard work. I think he'll get the momentum going now."
Head coach Ron Rivera had maintained that Johnson was playing well before he notched his first sack, and he believes the situations the Panthers' defense put the Bears in allowed Johnson to make more of an impact.
"They were in more third-and-longs, second-and-longs. We held them to only 85 yards rushing, and when you do those things you give yourself opportunities," Rivera said.
In the locker room at halftime, Johnson – a team captain – delivered a message that carried weight among his teammates and helped Carolina increase the pressure in the second half.
"He talked about the things he felt he could do and we could do," Rivera said. "He voiced his opinion, and when he does, you listen, because Charles doesn't say a lot. But when he says something and he's adamant about it, you know that's what he truly feels. I thought that was important yesterday."
Registering four sacks against Chicago was an important building block for the Panthers' defensive line. Johnson's only concern is where things go from here.
"This is a stepping stone," Johnson said. "We have to build off it and see if we can get better."