When it comes to elite defenses the Rams’ tour of the high-rent district continues Sunday in Charlotte.
Last week it was Houston and the Texans’ top-ranked total defense. This week it’s Carolina and the Panthers’ third-ranked total defense.

Compared to what the Panthers are bringing to the argument Houston’s defense was merely a paper tiger — or to be mascot-correct a paper Texan. Thanks in part to five interceptions returned for touchdowns against the Houston offense the Texans have allowed 177 points the fourth-highest total in the league.

Carolina has yielded a mere 68 points the second-lowest total in the league behind only unbeaten Kansas City’s 65. The Panthers (2-3) haven’t allowed a point in the first quarter all season and have yielded only 12 points in the first half.

When it comes to takeaways the Panthers are in the middle of the pack with 11; Houston’s defense is next-to-last with three.

“Yes (Carolina’s defense) is very talented” coach Jeff Fisher said. “That Texans’ defense was talented but this is a different design different scheme. A lot more pressure I think pass-rush pressure (on) early downs. They’re very good at collapsing the pocket.”

There’s not much star quality on this defense although linebacker Luke Kuechly was the NFL defensive rookie of the year in 2012. But the Panthers have a front seven to reckon with; it’s the strength of their unit.

“They’re very disruptive; they’re very active” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “Their defensive line does a great job eating up blockers so their linebackers can make plays. And they’ve really gotten after most of the people that they’ve played this year. So just like last week we’re going into this game with the mind-set that this is going to be one of the toughest challenges we’ve seen as an offense this year.”

Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is a protégé of the late great Jim Johnson whose defenses in Philadelphia were known for their heavy blitzing. Like McDermott Panthers head coach Ron Rivera also spent time on the Eagles’ defensive staff learning under Johnson.

Despite the Johnson influence this isn’t the blitz-happy outfit as was seen in Philadelphia from 1999-2008.

“Ron’s evolved over the years” Fisher said. “He’s not doing as much pressure because Jim was a real big pressure guy and they’ve got a four-man rush down there right now. They don’t need to (blitz).”

At least not as much.

“But when they do they’ve been effective” Bradford said. “For the most part too when they blitz it’s a single linebacker or they’re firing a safety. I think some of the secondary pressures are the things that we’re going to have to look out for. They’re not extremely complicated but when they do come we’ve got to make sure they’re accounted for.”

For example last week against Minnesota veteran outside linebacker Thomas Davis had two sacks and got a game ball from Rivera for his efforts. But for the most part the Panthers are content to let their front four do the pass-rushing particularly ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy.