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From No. 27 to No. 1: Panthers on pace to challenge sacks record

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Linebacker Bruce Irvin was about to disappear for the bye weekend when told the Carolina Panthers with 27 sacks, an average of 4.5 sacks a game, are on pace to tie the NFL-single-season record of 72 set by the 1984 Chicago Bears.

“Seventy-two?" Irvin said with a smile. “We can get to 72."

That would be a remarkable turnaround for a unit that finished 27th in the league with 35 sacks in 2018.

And it didn’t happen by accident.

It began with head coach Ron Rivera, who is more than familiar with what pressuring the quarterback means to a defense.