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Panthers think they can break the all-time sack record

Charles Johnson

Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson (95) is shown during player introductions prior to an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in Charlotte, NC Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)


The Panthers led the league in sacks last year with 60.

And they think they’ve got another dozen or more in them this year.

That’s the opinion of veteran defensive tackle Colin Cole, who thinks the Panthers can break the league’s all-time record of 72 set by the 1984 Bears.

“The goal is to surpass that and get up there with the big dogs of the past years,’' Cole said, via David Newton of “We want to set records as well.

“For us as a defensive line, that’s where our goal is. Maybe that’s just me talking on my behalf. But if you don’t shoot for the stars, you’ll never reach the moon.’'

Cole had just one of the Panthers’ 60 last year, with Greg Hardy notching 15.0 and Charles Johnson 11.0.

But only one team in the last decade has had more than the Panthers’ total (2006 Chargers, 61), making it clear that rules changes benefitting offenses is depressing the sack totals.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was a rookie on the 1984 Bears team (he got no sacks), and noted that the heavy blitzes of Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense and a superior cast of defensive talent made it possible.

“It was really the perfect storm in terms of personnel,’' Rivera said. “The nice thing is our guys have that kind of confidence. We have some good pass-rushers. That’s what it is. You have to have a combination.’'

The Panthers again have Hardy in a salary drive after franchise-tagging him, so he’ll be motivated. And with Johnson dropping a little weight and adding second-rounder Kony Ealy to an already good mix, the Panthers could push to top the league again.

Even if 72 is out of reach.