CHARLOTTE — The Panthers have allowed a 100-yard rusher in each of the past three games.
Atlanta’s Michael Turner, the back the Panthers will face Sunday, has run for 100 yards or more in six of his 10 games against Carolina, including a Week 4 meeting this season.
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Ron Edwards, the Panthers’ best run-stuffer, is on injured reserve. Dwan Edwards, the team’s other starting defensive tackle, has a severed tendon in his right wrist.
“Obviously, (against Kansas City) we took a step back,” defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. “The run game in particular over the last — the end of the Tampa game, the Philadelphia game and this (Chiefs) game — we’ve got to get that corrected.”
They’ll try to correct it without Edwards, the 6-3, 325-pound veteran whom coach Ron Rivera affectionately calls a “space-eater.”
With Edwards out all of the 2011 season — his first with the Panthers — after triceps surgery, the Panthers finished 25th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 130.8 yards a game.
Thanks to the current three-game lull, in which they’ve allowed an average of 176.3 yards per game, the Panthers have virtually the same run defense statistics this season. They are again 25th in the league, giving up 128.8 yards a game.
Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin rushed for 138 yards on 24 carries in the Bucs’ Week 11 win against Carolina.
In a Monday night game at Philadelphia, Bryce Brown — the nation’s No. college 1 recruit who flamed out at Tennessee and Kansas State before the Eagles got him off the scrap heap — ran for 178 yards, two touchdowns and a 9.4-yard average. The Panthers mitigated the damage by forcing Brown to fumble twice in the second half.
At Kansas City, Jamaal Charles, one of the NFL’s best running backs, went for 127 yards on 27 carries.
Opponents have rushed for 5.3 yards a carry against the Panthers over the past three games.
McDermott said the issues include losing the physical battle up front and compromising “gap integrity,” meaning the front seven failing to hold their ground and are out of position.
“It doesn’t take much for a successful run to happen,” said Dwan Edwards, who is questionable for Sunday. “A guy’s out of their gap, a wrong step, bad hand placement — a lot of stuff goes into it. We definitely have to do a better job stopping the run.”
“The last two weeks we’ve been getting a lot of second-and-short, third-and-short,” Edwards said. “That’s hampered our ability to get after the quarterback a little bit.”
The loss of Edwards had repercussions. After Sione Fua and Andre Neblett were ineffective early against the Chiefs, end Greg Hardy moved to defensive tackle, which hurt the team’s edge pass rush.
The Panthers have no one as wide or as experienced as Edwards, who dislocated his elbow against the Eagles and is out for the season.