Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC South [Print without images]

Saturday, December 7, 2013
Lotulelei's attitude about play says it all

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei got a lot of high fives and gasps from teammates during Monday's film session when the rookie was shown knocking Tampa Bay tackle Demar Dotson on his rear end.

Lotulelei
It was a spectacular play that illustrated the raw, physical strength of the first-round pick as he made Dotson look silly.

It was a play worthy of SportsCenter highlights and replays on YouTube.

It led to an interception by safety Mike Mitchell that the Carolina offense turned into a touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Ted Ginn Jr. four plays later.

Lotulelei should be proud, right?

Wrong.

"To be honest with you, I really don't like looking at that play because I didn't finish it," Lotulelei told me. "I actually missed a sack, and it was disappointing for me to watch that play."

This is a big reason the Panthers (9-3) are ranked second in the NFL in total defense. This is a big reason they have won eight straight games heading into Sunday night's battle against New Orleans (9-3) for the NFC South lead.

This is a big reason I believe they have a chance to beat the Saints in the Superdome where New Orleans has been unbeatable.

The Panthers are never satisfied.

The attitude Lotulelei expressed about that play is found throughout the defense, and in many ways throughout the entire team. It's about finishing the job, something this team finally has learned to do.

Lotulelei, as he has been much of the season, will be key against the powerful New Orleans offense. If he can disrupt the interior of the offensive line, ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy have a chance to disrupt the timing of quarterback Drew Brees.

If Lotulelei can set the tone for stopping the run, which he has done all season with a league-best run-stop percentage of 13.5 (according to Pro Football Focus), then Brees will be under even more pressure to carry the load.

"When you get pressure and get sacks, you've got a good chance to win," Lotulelei said.

And when you're not satisfied, you usually get better.

"That's really all of my feelings about that play against Tampa," saiid Lotulelei, ending this conversation. "Sacks are hard to come by in this league. It's really disappointing to see."