The Carolina Panthers defense has become the best unit in the NFL, and for 2.5 quarters, they’ve done nothing to disprove that, as they’ve held the New England Patriots to just three points and there’s less than 11 minutes left in the third quarter.
But they may have just endured a huge loss in the form of defensive end Charles Johnson, who was leg-whipped by a Patriots lineman on a play and was down on the field writhing in pain:
Charles Johnson leads the Panthers with 8.5 sacks this season. Was clearly in a lot of pain after that leg whip by Cannon.
— WEEI (@WEEI) November 19, 2013
Officially, Charles Johnson questionable to return with knee injury. Carts just make it seem more questionable.
— Darin Gantt (@daringantt) November 19, 2013
Panthers DE Charles Johnson can’t put weight on his right leg walking off the field. Has played at a Pro Bowl level this year #NEvsCAR
— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) November 19, 2013
Here is a GIF of the injury:
He’s since been carted to the locker room, and it looks like the rest of his season is in serious jeopardy.
Just a few weeks ago, Johnson went down with a groin injury in the closing minutes of their Thursday Night Football win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Johnson had to be carted off the field Thursday well after the game had been decided. The Buccaneers were driving for a garbage-time score after recovering an onside kick.
In his career he has accounted for 51.5 sacks and has forced 13 fumbles. In nine games so far this year, Johnson has 8.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and one recovery to go along with 22 tackles. He’s one of the best defensive ends in the NFL, and his loss would be devastating to this team.
Despite ranking seventh in the NFL with 39 sacks since 2010, Johnson has never been to a Pro Bowl, but looked to be well on his way to accomplishing that this year.