Days ahead of Sunday's Jets-Panthers matchup, oft-injured New York wide receiver Santonio Holmes said Carolina's secondary was the weak link to one of the league's best defenses. Not surprisingly, the assessment didn't go over well in the Panthers' locker room.
“The whole team should take it personal,” safety Mike Mitchell said, via the Charlotte Observer's Jonathan Jones. “I like that coach tries to do things like that. Always making it team, team, team. I think that's very good how he does that for us.”
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn added: “Coach Rivera said something to the defense about (Holmes' remarks) and like Coach Rivera says, it's a team game. If he feels that way, everybody on the field on Sunday, we're out there together and we're going to play for each other."
It is with some irony that Holmes, who has played in eight games this season and has 16 receptions for 381 yards and a touchdown, would have any thoughts on what good football looks like. The Jets' passing offense ranks 31st, ahead of only the Jaguars. Meanwhile, the Panthers' defense is third overall. Yes, they're better against the run (second) than the pass (sixth), but both units have been stout.
You can make the case that the front seven's ability to pressure the quarterback has a lot to do with the secondary's success. Fine. But the point remains: If the quarterback doesn't have time to throw the ball, the receivers aren't making plays.
“He's a great receiver, he's an elite receiver,” Munnerlyn said of Holmes. “It's funny to me because we just go out there and play football and let our numbers speak for themselves. We're ranked fifth in the league for a reason.
“Everybody's going to talk about the front seven and how well they do and how they put pressure on the quarterback. Hey, that's part of the game. You've got to have a great defensive line to have good (defensive backs) or great DBs to help you out. Some of the plays they make are because of us, and some of the plays that we make are because of them.
“If [Holmes] feels that way, there's a game that's going to be played at 4:05 on Sunday and we'll see what's going to happen then.”
Coach Ron Rivera sounded a similar tone: “People are going to say what they want to say. That's fine. But that's why you play them on Sunday to find out. Something I learned in all my years of playing, it's all about showing up on Sunday and we'll see how it goes. That's why you play.”