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Offense, defense take steps forward


CHARLOTTE – Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski was excited about the markedly improved execution of the Panthers offense in Sunday's 35-27 over New Orleans, but he didn't have much time to enjoy it.

"After the game you're pretty excited and happy about things, and I didn't even get a chance to come out and give my wife a kiss after the game," Chudzinksi said. "We just went straight back up into the office and started looking at Giants tape."

The Panthers will face New York Thursday night, and for Chudzinski's offense, that means they'll be lining up against one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL.

"Their front four is an outstanding, dynamic group," Chudzinski said. "They get after you and that front group is kind of where it starts with them."

Success for the Panthers offense starts up front too, by establishing the running game -- something they accomplished against the Saints.

"We played physical," Chudzinski said. "We executed well and cut out a lot of the mistakes."

Carolina ran for 219 yards and threw for 244, creating a balanced attack in Week 2. They'll need a similar approach to have success against the Giants defense -- a unit that thrives when it creates predictable passing situations, allowing that deep stable of pass rushers to pin their ears back and pressure the quarterback.

Plus, a consistent ground game helps increase time of possession to keep quarterback Eli Manning and Co. on the sideline.

"You can't be one-dimensional," Chudzinski said. "We'll need to run and throw it to be successful. Their offense is outstanding as well, so we need to try to keep them off the field as much as possible."

BONA FIDE BLOCKERS: Wide receiver Brandon LaFell drew rave reviews after a six-catch, 90-yard outing against New Orleans, and the coaching staff has applauded his emergence as a reliable pass-catcher.

But they've been just as impressed with his downfield blocking.

"I really want to say blocking," head coach Ron Rivera said when asked where LaFell has made his biggest improvement. "The receivers have to block. When you look at the (Week 2) tape you watch those guys block downfield."

Chudzinski hopes that blocking effort on the perimeter becomes a staple of his offense.

"When you have (receivers) that will go out and do that," Chudzinski said, "it's real valuable."

"We made a big point of that this past week. It wasn't up to par the week before in all areas, not just the receivers. We need everybody blocking and doing their job for our run game to be successful. That's what turns a 4-yard gain into a 16-yard gain -- them doing their job down the field."

ANOTHER ELITE QB: After trying to limit Drew Brees – the NFL record holder for passing yards in a season – the challenge doesn't get any easier for the Panthers defense in Week 3 against the Giants.

Two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning currently leads the league with 348.5 passing yards per game. He threw for 510 yards in Week 2 to help the Giants overcome an 11-point halftime deficit to beat the Buccaneers.

"What (Manning) did yesterday, I've seen time and time again," Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "You think you've got him, and then he surges a great comeback and puts the team on his shoulders in the fourth quarter or second half. He's as good as there is out there in the game today, I firmly believe that. We've got to be prepared."

McDermott saw a lot of positives from his defense in Sunday's win but said beating the defending Super Bowl champs will "take an even better effort than we just gave".

"We have to make sure we're fundamentally sound," McDermott added. "We run to the football, we tackle, we get off blocks, and when the opportunities present themselves, we need to catch the football. That's what we always go back to – the core fundamentals of playing good, solid team defense."


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