Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas
By NICK PARKER  |  Last updated 9/27/13
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A fleeting upswing in a floundering campaign or the moment everything flippedin a playoff season?Thats the question the Carolina Panthers are faced with following a dominant 38-0 win against theGiants. The next couples of weeks will tell the tale. I think the win can be the catalyst, most certainly, Panthers coach Ron Riverasaid. You look for something that can be a hallmark game, the game that everyone points to and says, Wow, thats the one that really got things rolling. But it will be no effect if we dont do what we need to do next week. The Panthers are on their bye week,and sure, three of the next four games come on the road, but those four opponents are a combined 2-11 on the season. Thats exactly the type of slate the Panthers need to climb back into contention before a Week 8 home date with the Falcons. There was an admitted annoyance from players with the bye week coming right after playing their bestfootball, but Rivera said it comes at a critical time because it allows some of the veterans in the secondary to get back to full health. It would help if they also return with the type of confidence they didnt have earlier in the season the late loss in Buffalo was aboutas bad as it could get, but nothing could have wiped the slate clean better than the largest margin of victory in franchise history. I think the team feels very good about itself. Its one of those things if wecould have done it the week before wed feel even better, but we didnt, Rivera said. This has to be something we have to build on, but we also have to be realistic. ... We have not arrived where we need to be by any stretch of the imagination so we have to approacheach week as a developing, learning, growing situation and keep shooting for the top of the mountain. After a 38-0 victory over a team that won the Super Bowl two years ago, arethe Panthers really flying under the radar? The bulk of the national talk seems to center around "How Bad Are The Giants? headlines. So wheres the positive feedback for the Panthers? Its not fair. Again, youd like to point at some of the things that happenedin the game and say, Wow, weve been doing it since we started in the preseason. Our defense has played well in the preseason,' Rivera said. Youd like to say, Hey, we deserve a little bit more attention,' but thats alright. Believe me I got no problem flyingunder the radar. The Panthers are mostly flying under the radar at this point because of preseasonexpectations and the fact that theyre 1-2. But the NFC as a whole is down. Theres only five teams in the conference holding a better record than the Panthers. So the thought of them being a playoff team isnt unrealistic. The confidence aroundthe organization seems to stem from this team being built differently than seasons prior. This team is built on defense and a power running game so far. Wide receiver Ted Ginn came to Charlotte from the San Francisco 49ers, so he knows what a playofffootball team looks like after playing in last season's Super Bowl and believes this team has the right ingredients. The running attack is similar with a dual-threat quarterback and a power running game. So is the defense built around a stoutfront seven Ginn referenced the similarities between linebackers Luke Kuechly and Patrick Willis and quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton. Very similar, Ginn said of the two teams. Its the same type of deal. The Panthers defense was great in the latter half of the season a year ago, buthas played that way from the outset this year. Theyre only allowing 12 points per game (fourth-best in the NFL) and are more physical at the point of attack on both sides of the ball. They have also embraced a more physical style on the offensive side of the ballwith new offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who has demanded to get back to an enhanced emphasis on the ground-and-pound approach. Theres no arguing with the results so far. DeAngelo Williams is fourth in the NFL in rushing with 291 yards and the Panthers are thirdin the NFL as a team with 151 yards per game on the ground. I dont think theres any difference with me, were just a more balanced offense,Williams said. I think the new offensive coordinator is establishing the identity of our offense. That identity has reinvigorated Williams, who is averaging 4.7 yards per carryand leading the team in rushing after Newton did a season ago. He had his best week yet against the Giants with 120 yards on 23 carries, cracking the century mark for the first time since breaking off 210 yards in a season-finale win against the Saints last year.Rivera said he didnt think it was a coincidence that Williams' best week came the first week they had all the starters back healthy onthe offensive line, either. Hes just hitting the hole hard. When hes going and he knows where he wantsto go, he hits that crease and its one cut and he lowers his shoulder and go. Theres not a lot of dancing, hes very decisive. He has great vision right now and he knows when he needs to cut back, Rivera said. Hes going to see a crease, stick that footin the ground and go vertical. Hes not going to go side to side. Its, 'Im over here, I see the crease, Im downhill, I go and I take my seven, eight, nine yards in a chunk.' If it becomes more, great. Video: Is 2013 the Year of the Sack? Probably not a coincidence either that Williams best game comes on the heelsof Newtons best game rushing, too. Williams says he notices defenses accounting for Newtons runs the more he gets free and as defenses implement a linebacker spy on Newton, the running lanes open up. Sometimes its just the threat, the possibility that may happen that couldhelp open up some other things. He starts that right read and that defensive ends looking right at him. Now all the sudden he thinks Cams gonna pull it but he steps outside to get cam and he hands it to DeAngelo who makes one cut and is gone for 15 yards,Rivera said. Thats the thing that I think thats important about it more than anything else Its the possibility of what could happen. If Panthers keep up what theyre doing at both lines of scrimmage, theres agood possibility theyll be headed for the Playoffs. And thats a long ways from Buffalo.
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