Over the final quarter of the regular season, the Carolina Panthers pass rush has been a one-man show led by Kawann Short who had four of the Panthers' nine sacks. The Panthers' struggled to get steady pressure, especially off the edge with only 1.5 sacks from the defensive end position over the final four regular season games.
The postseason has been a different story for the Panthers as they have been able to put pressure on Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer with eight sacks and 20 QB hits between the two games. The Panthers continue to get pressure right up the middle with four sacks from the defensive tackle position with Short having two sacks and Dwan Edwards and Kyle Love each registering a sack.
The best development for this defense though has been Charles Johnson, who has looked the best he has all season in the playoffs. He only had one sack in the regular season, which came in Week 2, but now has a sack in each of the past two games. He also forced one of the two fumbles by Palmer in the NFC Conference Championship Game.
The pressure put on Wilson and Palmer by the Panthers' pass rush has played a major role in the Panthers' ability to force turnovers, which has been one of the reasons they will be playing in the Super Bowl in less than two weeks. The Panthers have forced the opposing quarterbacks to turn the ball over 8 times (six interceptions, two forced fumbles). Luke Kuechly has three of those turnovers with two interceptions, returning both for touchdowns, and a fumble recovery.
The Denver Broncos finished the regular season with the most interceptions thrown (23) and gave up the 13th most sacks (39), which should play into the Panthers' strengths. However, the past two playoff games, Peyton Manning has not thrown an interception and been sacked only four times. While the veteran quarterback has not looked the best this season, he is still one of the all-time greats and Carolina will need to continue to dominate the line of scrimmage and put pressure on the opposing quarterback.