Panthers Preview: Kansas City comes calling

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Carolina Panthers are looking to get back in the NFC playoff picture by winning their third straight game in a contest with the visiting Kansas City Chiefs.

Gameday Essentials

Carolina Panthers (3-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-2)

Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. EST

Broadcast info: TV — CBS, Radio — WBT 1110 AM in Charlotte, Sirius/XM channel 225

Head Coaches: Ron Rivera — 53-40-1 overall, Andy Reid — 178-123 overall

Last week: Carolina def. Los Angeles 13-10, Kansas City def. Jacksonville 19-14

Series all-time: Kansas City leads 3-2

Last meeting: Kansas City def. Carolina 27-21 at Arrowhead Stadium in 2012 behind Jamaal Charles’ 127 rushing yards.

After a rocky 1-5 start, the Panthers took advantage of a bye in week six. Since their 41-38 loss at New Orleans, Ron Rivera’s team has put together two strong defensive performances against NFC West opponents Arizona and Los Angeles.

For the defending NFC champions, they need to look no further than this week’s opponent to realize there’s still plenty of hope to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. Last year, Kansas City started 1-5 before ripping off 10 consecutive wins to earn a postseason spot, joining the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals as the only teams in NFL history to start a season 1-5 or worse and make the postseason.

“I talked about it when we were getting ready for Arizona,” Rivera said Monday. “I said, ‘hey, it’s been done before, so don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.’”

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For veterans like Greg Olsen, it was a matter of getting back to work and playing well consistently to claw back in the playoff race.

“That’s the biggest message we try to get to the guys who haven’t been here in the past,” Olsen said. “This season goes on whether you like it or not, whether you’re doing well or not. You better keep working, or else you can get embarrassed in this league pretty quick.”

Olsen’s been a hallmark of consistency for Carolina this season. The former Miami Hurricane leads the league’s tight ends with 673 receiving yards on 45 receptions. Olsen’s receiving yards mark puts him in eighth across all players in the NFL. Since joining Carolina in 2011, Olsen has climbed to third on the franchise’s all-time receiving yardage list, trailing Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad. He needs just one more touchdown to tie Callas Clark for 10th in NFL history among tight ends.

Along with production from the offense, the Panthers’ defense has been much improved over the last two weeks. After registering just 12 sacks in their first six games of the season, Carolina has a league-best 12 in their last two games, putting them fourth overall on the season.

“As long as we continue to string wins together, that’s all that matters,” Thomas Davis said after last week’s win. “We still control what happens to this football team. But we’ve still got to take it one week at a time.”

Davis racked up 12 tackles, one sack, an interception, and a forced fumble against the Rams. The fumble, which came on a sack of Rams quarterback Case Keenum, was the 16th of Davis’ career, tying him with Mike Minter for third in Panthers history.

No Fly Zone

Since 2012, opposing quarterbacks have had a tough time moving the ball through the air against the Panthers linebackers. Luke Kuechly (12) and Thomas Davis (9) are tops in the NFL since Kuechly joined the team in 2012. Davis has 12 career interceptions and half of those have come over the past two seasons.

Running Man Challenge

In the Panthers’ 30-20 win over Arizona, Jonathan Stewart eclipsed 6,000 career rushing yards. Stewart joined former backfield partner DeAngelo Williams as the only backs in Panthers history with at least 6,000 rushing yards. Stewart, who missed three games with a hamstring injury, is 737 yards behind Williams for the Panthers all-time rushing yards lead.

Since drafting Stewart in 2008, the Panthers lead the NFL with 18,547 rushing yards, averaging 136.4 yards per game.

Sunday Giveaway Extravaganza

Since entering the NFL in 2011, Cam Newton has been a touchdown machine. With 12 scores added to his career total (172), Newton now sits third for most total touchdowns scored by a quarterback in his first six seasons in the league. Newton is 27 touchdowns behind Dan Marino’s mark of 199. The defending NFL MVP has 172 passing touchdowns and 46 career rushing scores.

Newton leads all NFL players in rushing touchdowns since his rookie season and is tied with DeAngelo Williams for the most rushing touchdowns in Panthers history. He is the only player in the NFL with at least five rushing touchdowns each of the last five seasons.

Tackling Machine

Thomas Davis set the Panthers’ all-time tackles record by recording 123 stops, surpassing Mike Minter’s 953 tackles. Davis now has 1,021 career tackles and has averaged 130 tackles per season since 2012, including a career-high 151 in 2013. Luke Kuechly is third on the list with 778 career tackles.

Copyright 2016 WCNC


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