<
>

Panthers' Roman Harper knows what 'Beast Mode' is better than most

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Nobody at Bank of America Stadium has experienced "Beast Mode," which the Carolina Panthers could face in Saturday's NFC divisional playoff game at Seattle, more up close and personal than strong safety Roman Harper.

It was second-and-10 in a 2010 NFC wild-card game at Seattle, which slipped into the playoffs with a 7-9 record. Harper was a safety for the New Orleans Saints.

When Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch took the handoff, Harper charged to contain Seattle's left side. Lynch, aka "The Beast," started off left guard, where he appeared stuffed.

And then began a memory that will be ingrained in Harper's mind forever.

"Seeing it unfold slowly but surely, tackle after tackle, stiff-arm here, a little hesitation block. ... I'm like, 'This guy's not down,'" Harper recalled on Monday.

Lynch eventually found himself running down the right sideline with blockers in front. Harper was trailing to Lynch's left, looking for an angle to make a tackle. When Lynch got inside the 10, Harper was confronted by guard Tyler Polumbus.

Harper tried to spin off and make a diving tackle around the 2.

He got nothing but air.

The celebration was so loud that it registered seismic activity.

"The rest is history," Harper said. "It's crazy to look back and see how that's probably one of the greatest runs of all time, especially in playoff history by any player.

"Just saying that I was on the field kind of sucks."

The Panthers haven't really seen "Beast Mode." In three games against Carolina since 2012, Lynch is averaging 63.3 yards. That's less than the decisive 67-yard touchdown in the 41-36 win against New Orleans.

Lynch had only 62 yards on 14 carries when these teams met in October.

So Harper is one of the few at Carolina to truly know what "Beast Mode" -- as well as the loud atmosphere at Seattle -- is like.

"Skittles were flying and the whole nine," Harper said of that game. "What they talk about is what you're going to get. I know some guys have not played out there, but you've got to enjoy that.

"It's something about going to a hostile environment and getting in their crowd and making them silent and having them sitting on their hands and taking over a stadium like that. It's not an easy thing to do."

It's particularly not easy when Lynch is making one of the greatest runs in NFL playoff history.

"It is what it is," said Harper, who made history this past Saturday by helping to hold Arizona to an NFL playoff-low 78 yards of total offense. "I've learned from it.

"It's just part of the thing I have to store in my memory bank when I'm done playing this game and just saying [it's among] some of the things I've been a part of."