NEW ORLEANS – It's a feeling that's hard to describe for an offensive lineman – that feeling when you know you're physically imposing your will on the opponent, controlling the game and its outcome.
"There's nothing I can say to really get you to understand," rookie guard Trai Turner said, "but it's really a great feeling."
Carolina's offensive line laid the foundation for the team's first win in two months on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. They paved the way for 271 rushing yards (the third most in team history) on 40 attempts – a 6.8 yard-per-carry average.
In addition, the line didn't allow a single hit on quarterback Cam Newton in the pocket.
"I thought they played well," head coach Ron Rivera said. "In light of the type of attacking defense they have and the way they are very aggressive with their fronts, I thought our guys handled it."
They handled it, and then they took over. The Superdome crowd, known for noise levels that can make life miserable for an opposing offensive line, was silenced by the third quarter.
"I'm proud of our guys," said center Ryan Kalil, who played through illness.
On Carolina's offensive first play of the second half, running back Jonathan Stewart ran for a 69-yard touchdown. He wasn't touched. Stewart finished Sunday's game against the Saints with 20 carries for 155 yards – the second-best outing of his career.
"When you run the ball that well, you control the game," Stewart said. "You make the opponent tired. Collision after collision takes a toll. The offensive line did a great job today, and it was a fun game to be a part of.
"The last couple games, we've been able to find a level of consistency. Today, we saw the benefit of it."
Quarterback Cam Newton rushed 12 times for 83 yards and one touchdown, and in Rivera's view, the quarterback runs helped soften up the Saints' front. Newton had gains of 21, 22 and 13 yards on the ground.
"When you look at my runs, I felt anyone could have run it. I mean, I did not get touched until I got well into the secondary," Newton said. "That's a great credit to the entire offensive line. All of them make plays that go unnoticed a lot of times, and I'm just the person with the ball and of course I get a lot of the credit. But all of those guys play unselfish football, and that's what you have to do to win."
Injuries have forced the Panthers to adjust the offensive line throughout the season, but the same starting group of five was used last week against the Vikings and Sunday against the Saints.
And that group – with Byron Bell and Mike Remmers at tackle and Turner and fellow rookie Andrew Norwell flanking Kalil – is finally getting a chance to settle in.
"It's all come together," Rivera said. "It's taken awhile for us because of the mixing and matching, but I think that group gives us an opportunity."