--It's difficult to play a perfect game in the NFL, but the Carolina Panthers came pretty close Saturday night when they dominated the Dallas Cowboys 29-10 at Ericsson Stadium in the first round of the NFC playoffs. Consider this: The Panthers were the first team since the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl X (1976) to not commit a penalty or a turnover in a postseason NFL game.
"That is what coach (John) Fox preaches," Panthers defensive tackle Brentson Buckner said. "Play tough, smart football and you can get it done. He said stupid penalties can kill you. It may seem like a nothing penalty at the time, but it can come back and get you, so don't make them.
"So we didn't and that's what worked against a great coach in Bill Parcells and a good team."
Added defensive end Mike Rucker: "We played smart football and stayed focused and the result is no mistakes. And the offense didn't have to make mistakes. When the line is containing, guys don't have to hold and take risks. They just do what they are doing and it all works out."
Fox attributed his team's near-perfect performance to superior focus last week in practice that carried over to the game.
"We do have a young team, but sometimes it's easier to get their attention," Fox said. "We have enough veteran leadership on the team that they're able to explain what a playoff atmosphere is like. We had very, very good preparation the week prior and tremendous focus."
--Fox spent the 1996 season as a consultant for the Rams after leaving Oakland following a fallout with Raiders owner Al Davis. During his time with the Rams, Fox was brought in to help evaluate pro personnel around the league and potential free agents.
"They were very, very good to me," Fox said. "I don't think they're going to be good to me this time." Even though he wasn't coaching, Fox said he enjoyed his stay in St. Louis and learned quite a bit.
"I worked five days a week, got to spend a lot of time with my family," Fox said. "It was kind of a good break to be honest with you."
--There was a lot of talk before Saturday night's game that Fox got out-coached by Bill Parcells in the first meeting against the Dallas Cowboys, a 24-20 Carolina loss.
When asked if that served as motivation for him the second time around, Fox responded, "You pay attention to everything, the criticism just comes with the territory. That's not going to change this week, next week or five weeks ago.
"It's a very competitive business and most of us are fairly competitive people. So everything drives everybody differently. I will say I'm driven. I'll be driven this week as well as last week."
Remember, it was the Packers that beat the Panthers in the NFC Championship game to reach the Super Bowl seven years ago. However, if the Eagles win, the Panthers would have to travel to Philadelphia.
--Defensive tackle Brentson Buckner said the Panthers had the right mindset heading into Saturday night's game against the Cowboys.
"There was a calmness in this locker room," Buckner said. "Guys weren't jumping up or down and cheering. Guys weren't banging their helmets. It was like, 'We have a job to do, now let's go do it.'"
BY THE NUMBERS: 15 -- Number of pass completions for more than 20 yards by Jake Delhomme in the first eight games of the season. 35 -- Number of pass completions by Jake Delhomme in the last night games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It gave a chance for the world to see what the Carolina Panthers could do. How much we've improved. Where we've come in two years. We don't want anyone to just give us respect. We want to earn it. And you earn it through the white lines. That's the only thing. The more we go out and play our hearts out and play hard, the respect will come." -- Panthers DT Brentson Buckner on what Saturday's playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys on national TV did for the Panthers organization.