Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- If you weren't there, it's hard to believe.

And if you were there, it's still a little hard to believe.

Anyone who witnessed how the Albany Panthers defense played in the second half of the team's 30-27 comeback win against the Louisiana Swashbucklers on opening night is still in a state of amazement.

If you weren't there, here's what happened (and remember, this is arena football, where teams routinely score 50 and 60 points).

After a less than stellar first half in which the defense gave up 27 points (on a number of blown tackles) the Panthers responded with a number of big plays in the second half as they went on to hold the Swashbucklers out of the end zone for remainder of the game -- an almost unheard of feat in arena football.

"We had a lot of mental mistakes in that first half," said linebacker Larry Edwards, who added that coach did not say much to defense during halftime.

"We did not have that fire that we usually play with so we just had to come in at halftime and look at ourselves and make our adjustments."

And like steel to fire, those adjustments shaped the second half for the Panthers as the defense made play after play to get the team back into the game.

"When your back is against the wall you know how to attack. It's all just second nature and when it comes down to that moment you got to show up," said defensive lineman Jason Claborn, who had a solo tackle and assisted on two others in his first game for the Panthers. "It's all about digging deep and believing in the next man and that he will do his job just like you do your job."

And looking at how the Panthers defense responded in the second half, they did dig deep and struck gold -- because when it came time for the next man to make a play he made it.

LeVance Richmond forced two fourth quarter turnovers -- an interception early in the fourth and a forced fumble just when it looked like Sammy Knight was ready to put the nail in the coffin with his third touchdown. Knight was running and just about to cross the goal line with three minutes left in the game when Richmond caught him and knocked the ball loose on the play of the night. Then there was the sack brigade as Edwards, Muni Muwwakkil, and Terrance Hawk each had a big sack, taking the quarterback down in the backfield in a game where the quarterback can get the ball off in the blink of an eye.

"In the second half we stuck together," said linebacker Jonathan Armstrong, who had three solo tackles and assisted on another against the Swashbucklers. "We showed a lot of heart.''

From the veterans to the young guys, the 2011 Panthers defense showed they were more than capable of returning to the form of a year ago when they had the league's top ranked defense.

"We just had to compose ourselves at halftime," Richmond said. "And then we went out in the second half and (pitched) a shutout and that doesn't happen in arena football."

In a game where points are put up like commercials, you can almost expect the Panthers to make the plays on defense that will put this team in position for victories.

"It was pleasing to see (the defense) come back from the adversity that they faced in the first half," Panther coach Lucious Davis said. "They just have to do their own individual jobs for the whole gameplan to evolve (and work)."