The Carolina Panthers defense likes to have fun but they are still all about business. Safety Kurt Coleman was on hand to discuss how the team is approaching Super Bowl 50.
“I think we’ve (done) a great job of just being able to enjoy the moment. I don’t think we’re putting much pressure on ourselves,” said Coleman. “Obviously, the lights and the glamour get bigger, but to us, it’s about executing the X’s and O’s, really just playing fundamental football and having fun while we’re doing it.”
“That has been our pedigree all season, and the one (time) that I didn’t feel like we were ourselves, per se, was the one game that we lost,” Coleman added. “So, I think all we have to do is be ourselves throughout this whole process and enjoy this game.”
In regards to enjoying the Super Bowl experience, Coleman shared the message that radio broadcast analyst Eugene Robinson spoke to the team about before they arrived in the Bay area. Robinson was arrested the night before his team played in the Super Bowl when he was with the Atlanta Falcons.
“He [Robinson] did say, ‘enjoy this moment,’” said Coleman. “This is something that you have to enjoy. Enjoy this process, but while you’re here, understand that it is a business trip, and it’s only good if you win… So, his message was have fun, enjoy this moment, but understand why you’re here. You’re not here to go to the beach. You’re not here to go to the parties. You’re here to win a football game and do everything you can to win it.”
Coleman said that his familiarity with defensive coordinator Sean McDermott’s system – that he played in during his rookie season in Philadelphia – made his transition to this team seamless.
“I felt like I was familiar with what Sean wanted to do before I came here, obviously, and that gave me the familiarity to know what he could trust me [to do] in his system,” said Coleman. “But also, I felt like the guys that I would be playing with… I had a lot of trust in their leadership, that I could come into and feel very comfortable really just being myself.”
The sixth-year free safety elaborates on how the Panthers defensive unit has been so successful.
“This defense is very technically and fundamentally sound, said Coleman. “We’re not asked to do anything other than what our job states. If I’m in the deep post, I’m not going to go and try and snag something across the middle. I’m going to stay in the deep post, because I know my corners are trusting that I’m going to be in the deep post. So, if anything comes across deep, I’m going to be there to help make a play for the ball.”
(Coleman emphasizes the trust going both ways) “Vice versa on the front four: If Jared Allen is in a five technique, a six technique, if he has a gap that he has to control, he’s going to control that gap, because he knows that I’m – or the linebacker is – going to be filling the other gaps. So, if he tries to get out of his gap, that puts us at a liability. So, I think it’s just a trust that we have amongst each other, with the coaches and the players all alike, that we’re going to do our job and nothing more than that.”
This defense has had a propensity for creating turnovers, a goal that Coleman said secondary set before the season started. They were tabbed with the nickname “Thieves Avenue” after they started forcing turnovers at a high rate early in the year.
“Every game, we’ve figured out ways to, ‘how do we get more picks?’” said Coleman. “How do we get more forced fumbles? How do we just create more opportunities for our offense to have the football?’ And then one week, [Panthers defensive line coach] Eric Washington kind of called us thieves, and it stuck.”
The entire defense shares the same mindset.
“It’s who we are as a group, as a collective unit, but it doesn’t just start in the back end,” said Coleman. “It’s because of our front seven that have been getting tremendous pressure all year.”