Only eight players in NFL postseason history have topped the two interceptions that Carolina Panthers safety Kurt Coleman had in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
Coleman’s first interception slammed the door on Arizona right before halftime. His second one stuck a knife through the keyhole just in case.
Arizona’s top-ranked offense fell quietly from there, losing 49-15 as Coleman, who spent training camp with the Vikings in 2014, joined a select group of players with two picks in one playoff game.
Eight Hall of Famers are among the 128 who have done it. Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman, better known as quarterbacks, each did it in 1943. Ronnie Lott did it twice in the 1980s while posting an NFL-record nine playoff interceptions.
Former Houston Oiler Vernon Perry set the single-game record of four against the Chargers in 1979. Seven are tied with three apiece.
The potential for even more picks awaits Coleman in the form of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif.
Manning hasn’t thrown an interception in 67 attempts this postseason, including 32 in a well-played 20-18 win over nemesis New England in Sunday’s AFC title game. But Manning did throw 17 interceptions this season, including three pick-sixes. He also has thrown a backbreaking pick-six in each of his past two Super Bowls, both losses.
Meanwhile, the Panthers (17-1) continue to dominate the league in takeaways and points off turnovers. First, Carolina led the league in takeaways (39), turnover margin (plus-20) and net points off turnovers (116) during the regular season. In two postseason games, they have nine takeaways and a plus-8 turnover margin. They’ve also scored 31 points off turnovers and allowed zero.
Sunday, the Panthers led 24-7 with 1:12 left in the second quarter when Cam Newton was intercepted by Patrick Peterson. He returned the ball 72 yards to the Carolina 22.
But on the next play, Coleman sat in the elbow of John Brown’s deep post route. Carson Palmer tried to throw it over Coleman’s head, but he leaped unusually high for an under-6-footer and came down flat on his back for a touchback.
“I really can’t describe it other than I just felt it coming,” Coleman told reporters Sunday. “When he put it up there I said, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ ”
Early in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals scored a touchdown to make it a 34-15 game. Two minutes later, they were driving again when Coleman intercepted Palmer at the Carolina 1.
Coleman was among the Vikings’ final cuts in 2014. He went on to Kansas City, where he led the Chiefs in interceptions with three before signing with Carolina after the season. He led the Panthers in pickoffs with seven this season.
It’s funny. The NFL continues to break records for most pass attempts. This year, teams pushed the average for attempts per game to 35.7.
Yet Paul Krause’s career record for interceptions — which has stood at 81 since 1979 — seems more unbreakable than ever.
Charles Woodson had 65 when he retired after this season. Now, the active leader is 32-year-old DeAngelo Hall, who is tied for 63rd with only 43 interceptions.
Krause can rest easy for a while, too. Not one of the top 252 players on the career interception list will be younger than 30 when the 2016 season starts.
Among active players who will be under 30 next season, Coleman, 27, ranks seventh. He has 17 career interceptions, but he also did something in his fourth playoff game — two picks in one game — that even Krause didn’t do while posting three picks in 19 playoff games.
“I’ve always believed in myself to be a playmaker since I started playing football,” Coleman told reporters last week. “It’s just about having the right opportunity. … My stats are only a symbol of what we’ve been able to do as a team. Coming here has been a blessing.”