CHARLOTTE – Members of the Panthers defensive line were convinced it was just a matter of time. And when the time came in the second half of Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears, they were ready.
"They started out quick-throwing and screening," defensive end Mario Addison said. "But at the end, (Jay Cutler) was holding the ball, and that gave us a chance to do what we do – rush the quarterback."
And rush the quarterback they did.
"We came out ready," defensive tackle Kawann Short said. "We just never gave up."
Carolina recorded four sacks – three of which came in the fourth quarter.
"It was great to see the pass rush get the chance to cut loose," head coach Ron Rivera said. "When you get yourself into the position when you have a lead, you get them into the second and third-and-longs, and you can cut it loose and get after the quarterback."
Defensive end Charles Johnson notched his first sack of the season on a crucial third-and-nine with the Panthers trailing 24-21 in the fourth quarter.
And when the Bears took over with 2:13 remaining and needing a touchdown to tie, the Panthers defensive line made sure a comeback was off limits.
On second-and-10 from the Chicago 45-yard line, the front four created immediate pressure, and Addison and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards combined for an 11-yard sack.
By this point, the Panthers defensive line was in a groove, both physically and mentally.
So when Chicago got ready for fourth-and-21 with 1:14 to go, Addison had an idea.
"At the end, I saw they were chipping more," Addison explained. "I told Kawann Short, 'Let's run a (stunt).' That way, KK can collapse the pocket, and I'll come under."
This stunt was added to Carolina's pass rush "menu" during the week of practice.
"During the week, (defensive line) coach (Eric) Washington gives us a menu that we can pull from," Addison said. "Before he puts it on the menu, we have to perfect it through practice. But it's on us to call it."
So Addison, noticing some tendencies, called for it on fourth down.
"We ran straight the first couple times, and the last play Mario called the stunt and it opened up freely," Short said. "I went outside, and Mario came inside. It was open, and I just saw the light to the quarterback."
As Addison expected, running back Matt Forte looked for him as he tried to provide help for left tackle Charles Leno, Jr., leaving Short unblocked as he vacated his interior spot and curled around the edge.
Short then delivered the devastating game-ending blow, sacking Cutler and forcing a fumble that Johnson recovered.
"The whole goal was to get Cutler on the ground and be disruptive," Short said. "We rallied together."