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On the final play of Sunday’s game, a Carolina linebacker made it look like he intended to blitz but then dropped back in pass coverage, putting himself in position to knock away Jacksonville’s last-gasp effort to knock off the Panthers.

It was the kind of play you’d expect a Pro Bowl-caliber veteran like Jon Beason or Thomas Davis to make.

Beason and Davis were in the stadium, but only to celebrate with the playmaker and their teammates.

“We showed one thing and did another. I just happened to be there to make the play,” said Thomas Williams , the unlikely perpetrator on the play. “It was a chess match, like the art of war – deception.”

The Panthers went to war against the Jaguars without any of their defensive captains, yet they held Jacksonville scoreless in the second half to rally to a 16-10 triumph.

Beason and Davis are out for the season, and safety Charles Godfrey missed the game with a concussion. If that wasn’t enough, top cornerback Chris Gamble was shaken up late in the first half and didn’t return.

Because of those injuries, Jason Williams , Thomas Williams and Omar Gaither saw significant time in the linebacker rotation, second-year safety Jordan Pugh got his third career start and recent acquisition Darius Butler saw his first notable action at cornerback.

All responded.

“The defense played great,” linebacker James Anderson said. “You had a lot of guys who started the season as backups or on special teams that were starters. With those guys coming in and stepping up and playing the way we did, you have to feel good.”

The remaining usual suspects certainly made their share of contributions. Anderson led the team with nine tackles, defensive end Greg Hardy collected a safety and defensive end Charles Johnson corralled a sack for the third time in as many games.

Beason and Davis obviously didn’t record any stats, but they contributed just the same – and not just on Sunday.

“This week, Jon Beason talked to me every single day, and Thomas Davis every single day about things I should look at and things that I should work on,” Thomas Williams said. “They were at the hotel last night, watching film. They are tremendous leaders that I look up to. I’m just lucky to be a part of their group.”

The defense was dominant early, not allowing Jacksonville so much as a net yard through the first quarter. The unit stumbled in the rain-soaked second quarter, giving up a stunning touchdown when Jacksonville gained 75 yards on two plays to close the half.

But in the second half, the Jaguars never even reached realistic field goal range given the conditions, failing to advance beyond the Panthers’ 36-yard line to allow Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and the offense an opportunity to pull out the victory.

“Early on in the week, there was a lot of uncertainty about some of the injuries on the defense. Coach (Ron) Rivera started this week off asking the whole team to respond,” Newton said. “It would be easy for somebody to just say, ‘Woe is me.’ But in the live battle, when a solider goes down, there has to be somebody to pick up the gun and keep going.

“There were a lot of guys that stepped up, and we didn’t even feel like we missed a beat.”