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"No Name" Wide Receivers Get It Done


SAN JOSE, Calif. – Caught up in the excitement of yet another touchdown, wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl couldn't help himself. He looked at the sideline camera during the NFC Championship and screamed, "How you like them no names?"

It was an expression of pure, unbridled pride. Carolina's wideouts accounted for three touchdowns and 225 total yards in the 49-15 victory over Arizona in the NFC Championship.

A victory made sweeter since Proehl's group of "no names" have been doubted every step of the way on the road to Super Bowl 50.

Quarterback Cam Newton reminded people of some of the "critiques" this week: "From Ted Ginn, Jr., who was a bust for so many people, I heard Jerricho Cotchery was washed up 10 years ago, Philly Brown had no hands, Devin Funchess was too high of a pick for the Carolina Panthers."

It all started back in training camp when No.1 wideout Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL. The remaining wide receivers comprised what was widely considered one of the weakest units in the NFL.

"What I stressed to these guys is collectively we have a strong group," Proehl said. "We don't have that one individual like Kelvin, but we've got speed, we've got size, we've got consistency. They know what's being said.

"It created that family where they root for each other. They feel like no one thinks they can get it done, so when one of them has success and makes a big play, they all sprint down there and celebrate. In the back of their mind, they're continuing to show people that they can."

Even without the 6-foot-5 rising star coming off a 1,000-yard rookie season, the Carolina wide receiver corps proved they could get the job done for an offense that led the NFL in scoring.

Ginn, Brown, Cotchery and Funchess are the four wide receivers the Panthers have counted on.

Ginn, the explosive speedster, led the team with 10 touchdown catches.

"Ted brings speed, leadership, experience," Brown said of Ginn. "He can stretch the field vertically. He's a great route runner. He brings great energy, and at the end of the day, I think he's the energy igniter in our room."

Brown, an undrafted rookie two years ago, brought more big-play ability.

"He's highly competitive and extremely smart," Cotchery said of Brown. "It's funny because Ricky told me before he came in last year, 'Cotch, you are really going to love this guy.' When he came in he was just making plays all over the place. How did this guy go undrafted? He was so polished. You could see it right away."

Cotchery, the elder statesman, worked in the slot and came up clutch on third down all year long.

"He's the elder of the room with all that knowledge," Funchess said of Cotchery. "He's got a knack for getting open and finding the windows. He's got strong hands and a savvy ability to get it done."

Funchess, the rookie taken in the second round, grew up in the second half of the year, playing to his size and becoming a red zone threat.

"As the season went on, Funchess brought that big play ability that people thought we were missing without Kelvin," Ginn said of Funchess. "He took a stride this year. We needed him to be big, and he came around. That's all you can ask for."

Few if any thought Carolina would be playing for a Super Bowl with that cast of wide receivers, but here they are.

How can you not like those no names?

"I'm very proud of those boys," Benjamin said. "Cam (Newton) took them in and ran with them. He believed in them, and they showed up for him each and every game."

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