Strickly Panthers: Panthers not playing blame game

CHARLOTTE – The Panthers defense is the fourth-stingiest in the NFL when it comes to allowing yards, yet with an offense that ranks last in points and yards, Carolina finds itself sitting with a 1-6 record.

It's a perfect recipe for rampant finger-pointing in the locker room, but the Panthers refuse to get mixed up in such.

"If you point one finger, there are four pointing back at you," defensive tackle Ed Johnson said. "When you point fingers, you have to be perfect, and nobody is perfect out there. Everybody makes mistakes. That's not even something we even think about."

With Carolina averaging just 12.1 points per game and standing even with Arizona for the most turnovers in the league with 23, the offense is putting the defense in some tough, tiresome spots. The defense has responded for the most part, ranking seventh in the NFL in red zone defense -- allowing opponents to score touchdowns just 39.3 percent of the time.

The turnover troubles have given opponents favorable field position, often putting the defense's back against the wall. Only three NFL defenses have faced more red zone situations than the Panthers, and as a result Carolina ranks in the middle of the pack with 21.4 points per game allowed despite its other lofty defensive numbers.

The only finger-pointing going on, however, is the offense pointing at itself.

"You never want to be the weak link," wide receiver David Gettis said. "Our defense is pretty much playing its tail off. We've got to produce and do our part."

Defensive players like linebacker Jon Beason undoubtedly appreciate the sentiment, but they in no way see themselves as blameless when it comes to this season's struggles. The defense has been put in some difficult situations to be sure, but Beason said the burden of getting out of them has nothing to do with the offense.

"We're not forced to be on the field," Beason said. "We can go out there and get three-and-outs – that's what we're supposed to do. Anything after that, it's on us.

"Obviously, when you're fresher, you play faster, but I love to play the game, so I don't want to watch. I want to get out there and get off the field – that's what we're supposed to do on defense."

If anything, it appears that the difficulties have brought the offense and the defense closer together in the locker room.

"We're in this thing together. Nobody is going to right this ship other than the people in this building," quarterback Matt Moore said. "There's no quit in the guys in here. As hard as it is right now, I think we have the perfect attitude to go on with the season.

"Everybody's state of mind is real good."

That state of mind in the face of adversity has impressed the Panthers brass.

"We've got high-character guys in that locker room," head coach John Fox said. "They understand what it is to be a team. Nobody can be the weak link; everybody has to step up; and we have to play together as a team.

"They understand that's the way you win, and we'll do everything we can to do that."

And winning, in the end, is the easiest way to avoid even the threat of finger-pointing.

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