CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Luke Kuechly knows Carolina's defense didn't have much bite earlier in the season.
He said that made Saturday all the more special.
The Panthers held Arizona to 78 yards and forced three turnovers in a 27-16 win, the franchise's first postseason victory in nine years. It's the fewest yards ever allowed in an NFL postseason game.
"We know who we are — menacing, stifling and we are going to get after you," cornerback Josh Norman said. "We know when there is blood in the water and when there is, our sharks are going to eat."
The Panthers (8-8-1) held Arizona to 12 yards in the second half, intercepted Ryan Lindley twice and sacked him four times.
Carolina's defense has undergone a remarkable turnaround this season, going from 27th in the league in Week 7 to 10th entering the playoffs.
"We had a lot of new guys early on who had to get accustomed to each other," said Kuechly, the All-Pro middle linebacker who had a game-high 10 tackles and a key interception. "Now we're all together and communicating — and that's huge."
The New York Giants held the previous NFL record for fewest yards in a postseason game, limiting Cleveland to 86 yards on Dec. 21, 1958.
Cam Newton overcame two turnovers and threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns and Jonathan Stewart ran for 123 yards and a score on a rain-soaked afternoon.
Newton was quick to deflect attention to his defensive teammates after his first career playoff victory, calling their performance "lights out."
The Panthers will play at top-seeded Seattle next weekend if Dallas beats Detroit on Sunday. If the Lions win, the Panthers play at Green Bay.
It appeared the Panthers wouldn't get the yardage record, but Arizona began lateraling the ball around the field on the final play and lost 19 yards.
It was a fitting end to the Cardinals' offensive ineptitude.
After a 9-1 start, Arizona's once promising season was undone by injuries, including to quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.
Trailing 27-14, Arizona recovered a Newton fumble and returned to the Carolina 8. But with a chance to get his team back on the game, Lindley fired over the middle but was intercepted by Kuechly, essentially sealing the Carolina victory with 11:48 left in the game.
"I thought he did great up until the first interception," Arians said of Lindley. "He managed the game as well as he could. We didn't do a good job of putting ourselves in manageable third downs. But we got the big break and he tried to force one in that should have never been thrown."