Home is key to Carolina's season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Wide receiver Steve Smith didn't seem interested in addressing the attitude the Carolina Panthers had for home games during their playoff seasons.

"You asking me? The guy with attitude, home and away?" he said.

Well, yes.

"Hey, the Super Bowl is not played at home, is it?" Smith retorted.

Well, no.

"So it doesn't matter," Smith said.

Well, yes it does.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, teams that made the playoffs the past two seasons averaged 6.2 wins at home. Four had a perfect 8-0 record. The 2011 Broncos (3-5) were the only playoff team with a sub-.500 home record.

Twenty of 24 playoff teams the past two years were 5-3 or better at home.

The Panthers (2-3) haven't come close to reaching the playoffs during that span, going 3-5 at home both years under coach Ron Rivera.

They are 1-1 at home this season. If they plan to reach their goal of making the playoffs for the first time since 2008, they need to start protecting their home turf in Sunday's 1 p.m. ET game against the St. Louis Rams (3-3).

“When you can win at home, that gives you a chance to get into the playoffs,” defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. “Just being around the players, I know there’s a sense of pride in playing out here in front of our fans.”

Strong home records have been key to Carolina's playoff history, as brief as it is. They were 8-0 at home in 1996 and 2008, advancing to the NFC championship in '96. They were 6-2 at home when they reached the Super Bowl in 2003 and 5-3 in 2005 when they lost in the NFC Championship against Seattle.

If you can break even on the road and go 6-2 at home, that guarantees you a 10-6 record that will make the playoffs in most years.

"We want to win every game, period," defensive end Charles Johnson said. "But when it's home, you definitely want to protect your house."

That was the message up and down a locker room that has yet to achieve home success here.

A lot of it comes down to attitude. It allows home teams with less talent to pull upsets. Carolina, for whatever reason, has lacked that under Rivera.

That must change if Rivera plans to be here beyond this season.

So yes, Steve Smith, attitude at home is important.

"Sorry, can't help you," he said as he walked away.