Panthers Rock Rams

At the midpoint of the 2004 NFL Season, the Carolina Panthers were 1-7 and in the driver's seat for a top 3 draft pick in the 2005 draft. <br><br> Fast forward to week 14. The Panthers are in the driver's seat for the 6th and final playoff spot in the NFC.

"We've been in the playoffs the last six weeks," Coach Fox told the media after beating the St. Louis Rams 20-7 at Bank of America Stadium. "We'll just see where the dust settles when you end. People don't keep track of halftime scores. It's where you finish, and the jury is still out on us. "

The Panthers have made an astounding turnaround, having won 5 games in a row mostly off of creating turnovers on defense. "At the beginning of the year, we really didn't have very many takeaways, and our turnover margin wasn't very good," Dan Morgan, who had 2 interceptions in his return from a 3 week absence, said after their dominating defensive performance against the Rams. "Lately, we have really stressed that in practice, whether it is interceptions or stripping ball carriers. I think it is really starting to pay off on the field."

"We had pressure up front, we had guys covering, and we had guys make plays." Julius Peppers added. Peppers has been having an All-Pro season and has been one of the brightest stars on the Defense.

"Over the last couple of games, we've been forcing more turnovers than we did earlier in the season," Peppers said. "When you force turnovers, it creates scoring opportunities for the offense and it takes scoring opportunities away from the opponent. There's no question the talent that we have on defense. It was just a matter of time until we gelled and developed the chemistry we had last year. I've always believed we would get it together and turn it around. This doesn't surprise me at all."

Ricky Manning was more direct. "It's gut check time. That's how we do it. We just have to keep staying hungry for the ball. This is our playoffs right now."

Manning had two of the Panthers 6 interceptions against the Rams, a Panthers team record. "Our secondary coach, Coach Perry, always tells us interceptions come in bunches, and that's exactly what is happening. We just kept pounding. We just keep playing hard, and things are starting to fall our way. A little luck here, a little luck there, plus some hard play, and everything is starting to click."

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