CHARLOTTE -- After the Carolina Panthers' 34-0 demolition of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, the hardest thing to find was an honest man.
"Not at all," linebacker Jon Beason said with a scowl when asked if it was as easy as it looked.
This was after they held the Chiefs without a point, limiting them to 35 rushing yards.
"Maybe they looked big to y'all," said DeAngelo Williams of his rushing lanes. "But they close up in a hurry."
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This was after he ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
"We left a lot of things out there," said guard Keydrick Vincent. "We must continue to get better."
This was after an offensive line playing without its two starting tackles paved the way for 205 rushing yards and allowed no sacks.
This was a dominant performance against an overmatched team, and if you're giving credit to the 4-1 Panthers, you should probably begin with their hospitality and humility -- as they flatly refused to admit how simple this win was to get as long as their visitors were still in the building.
This was a butt-kicking, a beat-down, a clinic, pick your descriptive noun. Simply put, the Panthers turned in their most consistent performance of the season against a team they didn't need to be very good to dispose of.
"I think it's been a while since we've had a game like this," coach John Fox said. "It's obviously enjoyable. I thought our guys came ready to play. We had a great week of preparation.
"It's probably as complete a game as we've played all year as far as offense, defense and kicking game."
It was the Panthers' first shutout since Nov. 19, 2006, when they blanked St. Louis 15-0. They've only had five now including the playoffs, and the biggest of the previous lot was a 24-0 win over Tampa Bay in 1996.
It was the biggest margin of victory in franchise history, topping the 44-11 win at Atlanta to close the 2005 regular season.
And it was never in doubt, no matter how much the polite crowd wanted to make it seem.
The Panthers dominated this one from start to finish. At halftime, when they led 21-0, they had out-gained the Chiefs 291-28. It was the third quarter before the Chiefs managed their second first down and their first trip into Panthers territory.
They held the ball on offense for nearly two-thirds of the game (38 minutes and 54 seconds), and they created three turnovers and notched three sacks on defense, while stone-walling their fifth straight stud running back.
That's why as much as they tried to downplay it, this one was sweet. And that's why after a meaningless fourth-and-1 stop to end the game, Beason was the one leaping in the air, pumping his fists and kicking his legs as he flew. He looked like Michael Jordan hitting a playoff jumper in Craig Ehlo's face, like a guy who just won the Super Bowl, not like a guy who just beat a team that will struggle to win again this year.
"Yeah, you try to play perfect, and to get that goose-egg is pretty sweet," Beason said. "You think about it. Through three quarters, they had barely gotten past the 50, and then late in the game, all of a sudden they're right there.
"If we don't step up and they get three points, there'd have been a lot of mad people in the locker room. For us to go out and step up when we had to and make the stop was huge."
Their one-week uprising against Denver notwithstanding, the Chiefs (1-4) offered little in the way of resistance. Tony Gonzalez did break Shannon Sharpe's all-time record for receiving yardage by a tight end, but it's a good thing he only needed 3 walking in the door because he left Charlotte with 17.
They're not very good, and they're young to boot. More than 60 percent of their roster (32 of the 53) has three or fewer years in the league, and it showed.
The impressive part for the Panthers is that they never let up.
"We wanted to try to get on them early if we could," quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "One that I'm really proud of this team is that it's a one-week deal. You don't look ahead. That's what I enjoy most about this team.
"There's a focus on the task at hand, and that's what you have to do."
Platitudes aside, dwelling on this one makes little sense and serves no constructive purpose.
This one will only become important in the way it sets them up for the next two weeks. Their trip to Tampa Bay next Sunday followed by the Oct. 19 home game against New Orleans will define the first half of the season, far more than the beatdown witnessed in Charlotte on Sunday.
"It's real quick. Coming up this week we've got a huge game at Tampa," fullback Brad Hoover said. "Everyone in this locker room knows that and expects that. Even though it was the kind of game today that was nice to have, we realize it's going to be hard work, and we've got to be ready to come to play next weekend. We've just got to be ready to play. Those are two very good football teams, two games we need to come in and play well. At least get one, though we'd like to get both of them. They're going to be critical as to how our season goes.
"For us, we've just got to keep our heads to the stone and keep ourselves in position to win games."