CHARLOTTE – With Ron Rivera on one side and Sean McDermott on the other, this Week 2 clash between the Panthers and Bills always had the makings of a physical defensive slugfest.
"I can tell you one thing, that's totally what we expected," linebacker Thomas Davis said after Carolina's 9-3 victory. "We were preparing for a defensive battle, and that's what we got."
After six seasons as the defensive coordinator in Carolina, McDermott left with a lot of knowledge in hand to become head coach in Buffalo. He helped construct the defense that the Panthers deploy today and went up against Cam Newton and the Carolina offense day in and day out.
With all that said and understood, everyone knew this would be a grind. And everyone seemingly knew what was coming.
"We expected that with McDermott knowing the offense the way he does for the last six years," defensive end Charles Johnson said. "You kind of figured it would be a defensive battle."
Rivera said linebacker Luke Kuechly sat down with offensive coordinator Mike Shula to help prepare for McDermott's approach. Pressure was going to come. Lots of it. But stopping it is easier said than done, especially on third-and-long.
"They are good at what they do," left tackle Matt Kalil said. "They got us a few times, and that's just how it goes."
Carolina's offense moved the ball well at times, but Buffalo's aggressive front registered six sacks, which stalled drives or pushed the Panthers out of field goal range.
"Their defensive front was very active and created a lot of problems for us," Rivera said. "It was tough."
But as tough as it was for the Panthers offensively, it was even tougher for the Bills, who finished with 10 first downs compared to Carolina's 19.
"I'll start off by giving their defense credit. They've got a talented bunch over there, and we knew it would be tough sledding coming in here for their home opener," McDermott said. "We got what I thought we would get."
Again, no surprises, no tricks or gadgets. Just two similarly disruptive defenses dictating the game.
"I personally think (their defense) is a true reflection of what our defense is," center Tyler Larsen said.
Neither team reached the end zone, but three field goals were good enough for victory on this steamy September Sunday. That's because for the second week in a row, the Panthers allowed just three points.
"If you look at it, we played the best defense in the league," Bills running back Mike Tolbert said.
It's too early to know for sure, but at this rate, the Panthers just might prove their former teammate right.
View the top photos from Panthers vs Bills by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez and second shooter Jamey Price.