Panthers defense has been a turnover machine

Sat Feb 6, 2016 2:03pm EST
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By Tim Wharnsby

(Reuters) - The Carolina Panthers defense may not allow the fewest points or lead the NFL in sacks, but their ability to force turnovers has been a key factor behind their remarkable run to the Super Bowl.

This strength was on full display when the Panthers punched their ticket to Sunday's Super Bowl with a 49-15 rout of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game.

All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly and Co. harassed Arizona for four interceptions and three fumble recoveries, a trend the Panthers defense started in the regular season when they led the NFL with 24 picks and 15 fumble recoveries.

But now the Panthers will be staring down a Denver Broncos offense led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning on the NFL's biggest stage.

The 39-year-old quarterback may not be as capable as he was in his prime, but the Panthers and head coach Ron Rivera will not take Manning lightly.

"I know he is very special," said Rivera, who was defensive coordinator of a Chicago Bears team that lost to Manning's Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl nine years ago.

"He is one of those guys that is going to have a storied career. He's going end up in the Hall of Fame. Everything he does is about winning."

Carolina's deft all-pro cornerback Josh Norman was still in high school when Manning beat Rivera's Bears and admired the quarterback from afar and even pretended to be him in his video game prowess.   Continued...

Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) celebrates after beating the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium. Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports