FUNCHESS TAKES BIG STEP: Rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess has had to be patient early in his NFL career, but two catches against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday showed everyone what the second-round pick is capable of.
Early in the second quarter, quarterback Cam Newton tossed a deep ball down the middle of the field, and Funchess fought off rookie cornerback Damarious Randall to make a spectacular 52-yard catch.
In the fourth quarter, Funchess caught a pass from Newton and muscled his way through Randall for a 14-yard touchdown, the first score of his young career.
"I was just waiting on my moment and it came today," said Funchess, who added that he's giving the touchdown ball to his grandfather. "It felt great. I had a lot of emotion. I was excited about it."
Teammates and coaches were excited about it, too.
"I think it was a big step for Devin, I really do," head coach Ron Rivera said. "It's going to be a big boost for his confidence and a huge boost for Cam Newton's confidence in him as well as (offensive coordinator) Mike Shula."
Said tight end Greg Olsen: "Sometimes, when you are a young player, it takes a couple of those plays and it feels like the weight of the world is off your shoulders."
The Panthers are hoping this is a springboard to greater things for the 6-foot-4, 225-pound rookie, who played to his size on Sunday.
"We brought him here for a reason. The kid can play," Olsen said. "Hopefully, this is his start to being a big contributor for us in the passing game."
FELLOW RECEIVERS STAY IN STEP: The drive before Funchess' 52-yarder, veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery gained 59 yards on a third-and-16. A few drives after Funchess' long reception, Philly Brown hauled in a 39-yarder.
All three of those drives ended in first-half touchdowns, including the Brown touchdown that forged a 27-7 lead.
"It was a great play call, great protection and a great throw. That made my job easy," Brown said. "It doesn't surprise me. It might surprise everybody else, but it doesn't surprise me. People might not think we have receivers in Carolina, but we're just going to step up and keep making plays."
PANTHERS PRESSURED RODGERS WITH SUCCESS: Aaron Rodgers can be a difficult quarterback to corral in the pocket, but the Panthers defense went with an aggressive approach that paid dividends.
Rodgers was sacked five times by five different players and Carolina recorded 14 quarterback hits, the last of which came courtesy of defensive tackle Kawann Short on fourth-and-goal and led to linebacker Thomas Davis' game-clinching interception.
"You see the results of the game," said defensive end Kony Ealy, who finished with a sack and three quarterback hits. "We fed off each other."
On the flip side, quarterback Cam Newton was never sacked, and the Packers recorded just two quarterback hits.
NORMAN IS HIS OWN HARSHEST CRITIC: Cornerback Josh Norman is usually all smiles after wins, but that wasn't the case after Sunday's victory over Green Bay.
"I know personally I am a little down on myself," he said.
Norman was only targeted a handful of times, and he finished with three tackles and one passed defensed. But he was particularly peeved about the 36-yard catch wide receiver James Jones made over him on fourth-and-14.
Norman was in good coverage and made a play on the ball, but Jones got the better of him with a spectacular catch.
"I just set the bar so high for myself," Norman said. "I'm just trying to beat the quarterback in every single way. I just have to be better."
SALUTE TO SERVICE: Before Newton fielded questions at his postgame press conference, he went out of his way to put someone else in the spotlight.
"I don't want to cut you off," Newton said to a reporter, "but I just want to start by showing my appreciation to the veteran that I represented today."
Newton later added, "I don't think the troops get enough recognition and praise."
The Panthers did all they could to recognize members of the military Sunday, highlighted by the presentation of helmets signed by players to family members of fallen soldiers with ties to the Carolinas.
Several players in the locker room opened their media sessions with a mention of the proceedings.
"I have to give thanks to those families of the honored soldiers," Ealy said. "It was an honor playing for them."
Staff writer Max Henson and senior writer Bryan Strickland contributed to this report.
View photos and read about the 46 fallen heroes being honored by the Panthers.