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THE NFL / 1996

After Walking Walk, Carolina Talks Talk

Interconference: Panthers turn attention to Super Bowl after routing Ravens for their sixth consecutive victory, 27-16.

December 16, 1996|From Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Now that the Carolina Panthers have proven they can handle their status as an NFL playoff qualifier, Lamar Lathon figures it's about time they started thinking bigger.

"I think that the talk could definitely be Super Bowl," linebacker Lathon said Sunday after Carolina's 27-16 victory over Baltimore. "I don't think it's too farfetched. We're a hot team right now."

The Panthers (11-4) extended their franchise-record winning streak to six and stayed in first place in the NFC West. A victory in their regular-season finale against Pittsburgh would give the Panthers the division title and at least their first playoff game at Ericsson Stadium, where Carolina has been overpowering.

"We know that we're in control," Coach Dom Capers said, "and as long as we can take care of our business, we don't have to be too concerned about anything else."

The Ravens (4-11) became the seventh team to lose in as many games this season at the Panthers' new $187 million facility. Carolina has outscored those opponents 194-67. In the second half, the Panthers have scored 83 points at home, while holding the visitors to 13. They have given up only one second-half touchdown.

"With our record, I think any team should be afraid to come in here," said Lathon, who had one of the Panthers' four sacks of Vinny Testaverde. "We've won consistently at home. We've always played harder in the second half here. Our record speaks for itself."

Capers was concerned about how his team would react against Baltimore. The week before, the Panthers clinched a playoff berth.

Carolina opened the third quarter with a 12-play, 76-yard drive in which Kerry Collins completed all five passes for 68 yards. His six-yarder to Mark Carrier put the Panthers ahead to stay.

Baltimore went three-and-out on its next possession, and Collins completed two more passes for 22 yards to set up a 44-yard field goal by John Kasay. That made it 20-13.

Baltimore was up, 13-10, at halftime, marking the 10th consecutive game in which the Ravens have held a second-half lead. Their record in those games fell to 2-8.

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