It’s always nice when you can prove someone wrong. Nothing really compares to that feeling of satisfaction when you can defy their expectations and prove your worth, showing them that your perceived inadequacy was nothing more than an isolated aberration. Veteran cornerback Drayton Florence was lighted by the Carolina Panthers at the end of the preseason, cutting the 11-year vet despite signing him in the offseason with the expectation that he would be a starter. The Panthers re-signed him a few weeks later when four of their secondary players were injured against Buffalo, seeing time in nickel and dime packages.
Florence didn’t make much of an impact in the first few games after his return as others took the spotlight. The entire secondary rose to fill the spots left in the wake of injury, with undrafted rookies Melvin White and Robert Lester forcing key turnovers following the example of veterans Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell. Those performances, however, came against inferior competition, while Florence’s effort came when the stakes were high. He has effectively sealed the deal for the Panthers in two consecutive games, putting the game away and taking the pressure off of the offense.
The first came against the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers had just scored on a Cam Newton run, putting them up 24-10 in the fourth quarter, and the Falcons had to score on the next drive if they wanted to have any chance at coming back. Matt Ryan dropped back and slung a pass to Drew Davis near the sideline only for Florence to snag it prematurely. Florence high-stepped into the end zone putting the Panthers up 31-10.
The next came against the San Francisco 49ers. With a less than a minute left, Colin Kaepernick rushed his offense to the line, desperately trying to get a play off after getting sacked on first down. Kaepernick fought off pressure and flung a pass deep down the field into the waiting hands of Florence. Both wins have solidified the Panthers’ five-game winning streak and earned them some credibility. They will need the same effort from Florence when the New England Patriots come to Charlotte.