With turnover streak over, Carolina Panthers look to start another

jjones@charlotteobserver.comDecember 12, 2013 

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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) has the ball stripped by Carolina Panthers' Quintin Mikell (27) in the second half at of Sunday’s 31-13 victory. The Saints recovered, helping keep the Panthers from forcing a turnover for the first time since Week 13 of 2012.

DAVID T. FOSTER, III — dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com Buy Photo

Last week’s 31-13 loss to New Orleans marked the first time the Carolina Panthers did not create a turnover in an NFL game in more than a year.

That was among the disappointments in the locker room after the game, but middle linebacker Luke Kuechly said the defense is looking to start a new streak this week against the New York Jets.

“That’s one of our goals each week is to force two or more turnovers, and obviously we didn’t get it,” Kuechly said. “We put ourselves in position to get a couple, we just didn’t capitalize. (Quintin Mikell) got one out and the ball was on the ground. We just need to get the ball. We take pride in getting the ball out and picking the ball off and we need to get back to that this week.”

The Panthers are fourth in the NFL in takeaways with 26 – 16 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. Until the New Orleans game, they had gotten at least one turnover in every game since Week 13 of the 2012 season against the Chiefs.

Mikell forced a Drew Brees’ fumble in the fourth quarter when he sacked the quarterback for a loss of 9 yards, but the ball was recovered by the Saints.

It’d be a good week for the Panthers’ defense to get back to its old ways. The Jets have thrown 21 interceptions and lost seven fumbles, owning a turnover differential of minus-18 compared with the Panthers’ plus-10.

The 28 turnovers are tied for second-most in the NFL behind the New York Giants. Since their bye week four weeks ago, the Jets have turned the ball over 11 times in four games while going 1-3 in that span.

He said it: If you call someone out, but preface it by saying you’re not calling them out, is it still a call-out?

New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes said about the Panthers what many analysts, media and observers have said since training camp.

“Not to call these guys out, but their secondary is probably the weakest link on their defense,” Holmes said, according to ESPN New York.

The Panthers’ front seven has gotten most of the praise for the team’s No. 2 overall defense ranking while the secondary has been given the nickname “Legion of Whom.”

Holmes, who has 16 catches for 381 yards in a season shortened by injury, made these comments after the Panthers’ locker room had closed to the media.

Injury update: Guard Chris Scott participated fully in practice for the first time since spraining his MCL against Atlanta in Week 9.

Scott had been limited in the past week, and Rivera liked what he saw out of the 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman on Thursday.

“As we’ve said with all these knee injuries we’ll reevaluate in the morning and see how he responds,” Rivera said. “Each day he seems to be getting better and better.”

Scott will be in the offensive line rotation, Rivera said, but Nate Chandler will get the start at right guard. Chandler missed Wednesday’s practice with an elbow injury—he said it “flared up” on him—but was at Thursday’s practice with a sleeve on his right arm and a brace on his left leg.

Tight end Greg Olsen (foot) returned to practice in a limited capacity, and Rivera said he had no concerns about Olsen’s availability for Sunday. Special teamer Jordan Senn (hamstring/illness) was not at practice.

Jets’ must-win: The Dan Dierdorf Farewell Tour will make a stop in Charlotte this weekend.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman and long-time CBS announcer is in his final year of calling games, and he will partner with Greg Gumble to call the Jets-Panthers game this week.

“In terms of the gravity of this one game, it’s completely different for the two teams,” Dierdorf said in a CBS press release. “Obviously the Carolina Panthers have more margin for error than do the Jets. If the Panthers lose, they will be 9-5 and still very much in it. If the Jets lose, it’s pretty much over. Mathematically they will be alive and still have a heartbeat, but it will be a faint one. This is going to be a huge task for the Jets.”

The Jets (6-7) are ninth in the AFC and are fighting for the final wild card, which is held by the 7-6 Ravens. But Miami (7-6) and San Diego (6-7, but holding the tiebreaker over the Jets) are also ahead of New York. And a poor 3-7 record against AFC competition won’t help the Jets in a tiebreaker scenario.

Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said this week he’s aware the Jets essentially have to win out to have a hope for a playoff spot.

“Most definitely, just to have a chance too,” he said. “So, got to depend on a few people to lose, but it’s a playoff mentality team though.”

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