Carolina Panthers

Panther's defense given new life

NEW ORLEANS -- By all rights, it should have been over.

The New Orleans Saints had beaten the Carolina Panthers from one end of the field to the other -- literally -- but couldn't finish the job. Their 24-play, 93-yard, 10 minute and 22 second drive, which began in the third quarter and seemingly lasted until Thursday, should have been the death of the Panthers' defense.

Instead, it gave it new life.

"I think that drive helped give our defense the identity it was missing," defensive tackle Kris Jenkins said.

The Panthers couldn't stop the Saints at all until there was no more ground to give them, when defensive end Julius Peppers blocked a 20-yard field goal attempt that allowed the Panthers to come back for a 16-13 victory at the Louisiana Superdome.

"It was tough; That was a 22-play drive and we didn't give up on it," cornerback Ken Lucas said. "A lot of other people would have just rolled over and just let them scored a touchdown. It wasn't pretty today, but we got the job done."

If you thought the drive would never end, you weren't alone.

The Saints converted three third downs and two fourth downs to get there, taking advantage of a fake punt for one of them. They also took advantage of three Carolina penalties, including 15-yarders on linebacker Jon Beason for a facemask and defensive tackle Damione Lewis for roughing the passer.

"I thought a lot of the calls were questionable," Jenkins said. "It was kind of frustrating."

Still, they stood firm, with Peppers making the big stop late, but many other players contributing along the way.

"We felt like we were back in the old school where we didn't care," defensive end Mike Rucker said. "That was kind of the attitude. We didn't care if we were out there 100 plays. We didn't care if the ball got turned over or if they ran a fake and got a first down. We didn't care.

"That is kind of the attitude we have to get back to -- back like we were in 2003 where we didn't care. Where we fight, scratch and claw to get a win."

Coach John Fox said it was the kind of stand that can become defining, pleased with the effort of his stop-side.

"I thought it was a tremendous effort by our defense, not just then," Fox said. "There were a lot of places. They had a fake field goal and there were lot of things that happened to them where they could have laid down their sword. And they didn't.

"Like every team, you have your own personality. Sometimes some people panic and I don't think anybody in that locker room did."

daringantt@carolina.rr.com

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