Team feeds off Defense

The Panthers are winning the John Fox way -- with defense. Carolina forced six turnovers on Sunday, recorded three sacks and limited the Jets to 77 total yards passing to win 30-3 and move into sole possession of the first place in the NFC South. The Panthers are tied with Seattle for the best record in the conference.

Big plays on defense have been the key of late.

In Week 9 against Tampa Bay, it was a 61-yard interception return for a score by Chris Gamble. Last week, Gamble had a pick, Ken Lucas had two and Will Witherspoon added a 35-yarder for a score.

Before Sunday's game, quarterback Jake Delhomme asked safety Mike Minter and his defensive teammates for a favor.

"I talked about being patient because (the Jets) are good," Delhomme said. "I told Mike that we may need to feed off our defense today a good bit."

And feed they did.

Carolina's defense forced turnovers on five straight New York possessions in the second half, leading to 23 points.

"A lot of people probably wrote us off at the beginning of the season because we started off slow, but we never gave up hope," Lucas said.

Lucas said he feels like the Panthers are one of the best teams in the NFL right now, but there's still room for improvement.

"That's what is scary about it because we are playing pretty good right now, but we can still get better," Lucas said. "We still have not reached our peak yet."

The Jets made a point to take away Steve Smith, the league's leading receiver, by doubling him up all day and limiting him to three receptions for 34 yards and no touchdowns. With that in mind, the Panthers focused on their running game, which was effective but certainly not overwhelming.

Davis matched his career high with 81 yards on the ground, and the Panthers ran for 101 as a team, but averaged a meager 2.8 yards per carry.

"We ran it efficiently enough," Fox said. "You never feel like you've arrived, and there is always room for improvement. We still have work to do."

Carolina's offense faces another stiff test this week when it travels to Chicago for a cold-weather game.

"Our defense is playing extremely well," Delhomme said. "I'm glad they're on our side. So far this month is not so easy on us as an offense having to face Tampa Bay and now the Jets. I haven't looked at Chicago on tape yet, but I can imagine how good they are on defense. But we are playing good football as a team right now, and certainly the defense played well."

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