'Philly' Brown has caught on with Panthers

SAN FRANCISCO - Corey Brown knows a lot of people don't hold the Carolina Panthers' wide receiving corps in high regard. And you know what? He doesn't really care.

"We honestly didn't care what anybody had to say (about us),'' the Cardinal O'Hara product said Wednesday before he and his teammates started preparations in earnest for their Super Bowl 50 battle with the Denver Broncos on Sunday night.

"We haven't paid attention to any of that. We're not playing for the people who were saying we suck or whatever. We couldn't care less what they say. We just wanted to go out there and make the plays when the ball is thrown to us. Make the most of our opportunities and just do our job. And that's what we've been doing all year.''

Kelvin Benjamin's season-ending August knee injury was supposed to doom the Panthers. Without Benjamin, who was Cam Newton supposed to throw the ball to other than tight end Greg Olsen?

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Retread Ted Ginn, who had one season with more than 38 catches and was primarily considered a return specialist? Been-around-forever possession receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who had 31 touchdowns to show for 11 NFL seasons?

Brown, an undrafted, second-year player with speed but just 21 receptions as a rookie? Talented but very, very raw rookie Devin Funchess?

But things turned out just fine. Olsen ended up being Newton's go-to guy, catching 77 passes for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns. And Ginn, Cotchery, Brown and Funchess combined for a respectable 145 catches and 22 touchdowns.

And, oh yeah, the Panthers finished first in the league in scoring, went 15-1 and are about to play for the Lombardi Trophy.

"We take a get-better-each-and-every-day approach to what we're doing,'' said the 33-year-old Cotchery. "So, we hear things that are being said, but we really don't take them to heart because we just try to focus on getting better individually and collectively, and making sure that we'd be at our best on Sunday.''

Brown certainly has improved in his second pro season. He had 31 catches and four TDs in the regular season and averaged 14.4 yards per catch. In the Panthers' lopsided, 49-15 win over Arizona in the NFC Championship Game, he had four catches for 113 yards, including an 86-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.

According to the sultan of city high school sports, Ted Silary, Brown's 86-yard TD catch was the longest ever in a playoff game by a Philadelphia product. Roman Catholic product Marvin Harrison held the previous record with a 46-yard TD reception in a 2003 playoff game.

"Everybody knew they had to step up their game to replace what Kelvin brought to the table,'' Brown said.

Brown, who played just 314 snaps last season, played 770 this year, which was the most by any Panther wideout. Ginn played 691, Funchess 506 and Cotchery 435.

"It's still early for me,'' Brown said. "I'm a guy who's learning (something new) every day. Having a guy like Jerricho here for me is great. Because he's played the position for so long. He's always, every day, telling me new stuff. I'm always watching him and just grabbing new stuff from him.

" 'Cotch' says every day he still has a lot to learn. So I don't think there's a max capacity that you can get to be a good receiver.''

All of the Panthers' receivers have benefited from playing with a unique talent like Newton, who can extend plays with his legs and give his receivers extra time to get open.

"He's one of the best in the league at extending plays,'' Brown said. "I don't care who the DB is. It could be Deion Sanders. If you give a receiver 6, 7 seconds to get open, it's tough to cover him. At that point, you can get away from your route and just run anywhere you want. If you have a good quarterback like we have, he can put it right on you.''

Brown's nickname is Philly, for obvious reasons. It was given to him by former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel when he was recruiting Brown.

Tressel also was recruiting another player from Western Pennsylvania with the very same name. So he called one Philly Brown and the other Pittsburgh Brown.

"Some people think Philly is my real name,'' he said. "If my mom named me Philly, something would be wrong with her.''

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