I have been struggling to put into words what the Carolina Panthers were missing over the past two seasons. Then, this morning, it dawned on me. It wasn't toughness, it wasn't talent...

It was grit. The Panthers were lacking in grit.

You see, grit is something you don't teach in the classroom. It can't be acquired through practices. It is an intangible that often goes overlooked in the NFL, but is perhaps one of the most important. Grit isn't toughness or talent. Grit is the ability to use those traits to persevere toward a unified goal. That is precisely what the Panthers have discovered this season.

I believe grit made its way into Bank of America stadium by way of Buffalo. It was the loss in Buffalo that literally put the grit in Ron Rivera's stomach...

"Seriously [the loss] eats at me," Rivera said. "It friggin' pisses me off to no end. And maybe that's what it took. Maybe that's the revelation I needed."

Since then, Ron Rivera is no longer a calculated signal caller looking to minimize risk at all cost. Rivera has reached back into his past, found his inner Ditka, and emerged as Riverboat Ron.

From there it has spread on to the field where Cam Newton now is able to put early mistakes aside and focus on winning. The Panthers defense is now able to close games instead of the inevitable fourth quarter collapse.

The 2013 Panthers have grit.