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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Linebacker Thomas Davis takes little solace in the fact the Carolina Panthers are still alone in first place in the NFC South.
That's because he views the team's hold on that positon as tenuous at best given Carolina's defense has surrendered at least 37 points in four of its last five games
The Panthers are 1-3-1 in those games.
"We're number one in the division right now, but if we continue to play the way we have it won't last long," Davis said Monday.
The Panthers (3-3-1) are struggling to find answers on defense entering Sunday's game against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, who have their own problems after losing back-to-back games.
Aaron Rodgers shredded Carolina's secondary over the weekend, completing 19 of 22 pass attempts for 255 yards and three touchdowns in the Packers' 38-17 rout. It's part of a larger trend for the Panthers, who haven't been able to stop anyone on defense.
Since their 2-0 start, the Panthers have allowed the last five quarterbacks they have faced to complete 76.5 percent of their passes for 1,390 yards for 12 touchdowns.
The Panthers, playing with almost an entirely revamped secondary and without defensive end Greg Hardy, have allowed 15 TD passes in seven games after giving up just 17 all of last season. They have allowed 195 points in seven games after giving up just 241 last season.
Davis said that needs to change in a hurry, especially with Russell Wilson and New Orleans' Drew Brees next up on the schedule.
"We have some really big games coming up," Davis said. "We have to go out and do our jobs against Seattle or the outcome won't be any different than the one we had this past weekend."
Carolina ranks 26th in total defense, and only three teams have allowed more points than the Panthers, leaving defensive coordinator Sean McDermott searching for answers.
He has a secondary that includes veteran newcomers Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud at safety and Antoine Cason at cornerback. While they are more experienced than last year's defensive backs, it has become clear they lack overall speed.
"Regardless of how fast you are, it's how fast you play," McDermott said. "And it's the effort behind the speed. "
Carolina had at least 13 missed tackles against the Packers. McDermott said the Panthers can eliminate big plays caused by missed tackles by doing a better job of swarming to the ball and gang-tackling — two things they excelled at when they had the league's No. 2-ranked defense last year
"That's how you play good defense," McDermott said.
Davis also questioned the team's effort.
One of Carolina's defensive captains said too many players are taking plays off and not giving their best effort on a consistent basis.
"It's a competitive thing," Davis said. "You have to be willing to go out and compete and give yourself up for this team, for this defense. You have to play like that the whole game. You can't pick your spots and say, 'Hey, I'm going to play right now and I'm going to take this play off.' That play you take off could cost us the game.
"Guys have to go out with the mindset of we have to play a complete game."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said corrections need to be made, but didn't anticipate any personnel moves or changes in the starting lineup this week.
"We have to play a better brand of football," McDermott said.
The Panthers are missing starting rookie nickel back Bene Benwikere, who could be out another week with a foot injury. Josh Norman is battling a concussion.
Rivera pointed to "undisciplined play" early in the Packers game as a major concern, citing the team's two penalties on the game's opening drive that led to a Green Bay touchdown.
"There were a couple of things that happened early on that snowballed," Rivera said. "Once that happened it was hard to stop it."
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