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Panthers peaking


CHARLOTTE – Beating the division champion Falcons before flying across the country to dominate the Chargers has inspired a ton of confidence in the Panthers locker room.

They are playing their best football of the year, and then some.

"I feel like we're playing as well as we've played in about two years right now," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "We are doing it as a team, doing it together."

Third year defensive end Greg Hardy agreed with Davis' valuation.

"Most definitely. This is the pinnacle of my career," Hardy said. "It's basically because everybody believes in it. We've always had talent, but it's about the mentality and the atmosphere around here."

That atmosphere has been noticeably different of late.

Offensively, the Panthers starting fast and stringing together lengthy touchdown drives consistently. The defense limited the Falcons to their second-lowest point total of the season before giving up just one touchdown against the Chargers.

All of that has added up to renewed confidence, and that's been a key ingredient to the Panthers' first back-to-back wins of the season.

"There's a lot of confidence in what we're doing," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Playing with confidence is big, and that's what we've done."

Said Davis: "It's been going on around here for the last few weeks. Guys are really buying in to what's going on. We are going out and making those (critical) plays, and once you start doing it, it becomes contagious."

Sunday's home finale against the Oakland Raiders presents Carolina with the opportunity to win three straight games for the first time since 2009, when the Panthers won their last three games of the season.

"You obviously want to win three, four, five in a row. As many as you can," Rivera said. "It's just about winning more so than anything else. I really don't think it's something that has to be talked about."

The Panthers haven't arrived, but after fighting through adversity in the form of several heartbreaking defeats and season-ending injuries, this surge has been encouraging.

"We're on the rise," tight end Greg Olsen said. "We have a growing, young team with a lot of new faces that have stepped up and done a great job as of late. We are getting better each week and starting to find our rhythm."

Now the Panthers are intent on continuing to build on the winning formula they've found. 

"It's starting to get there. The confidence is coming," Hardy said. "It's sparking in areas and position groups, and eventually it is going to hit the whole team, and we're going to take off."

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