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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Carolina Panthers Week 4: Three Up, Three Down

Three things the Carolina Panthers did well.


After reading the heading of this section, I am sure that you are confused and full of laughter. The Carolina Panthers played one of the worst games I have ever seen against the Baltimore Ravens this past Sunday. The Panthers lost 38-10 and Steve Smith Sr. got his revenge. Steve Smith Sr. was let go from the Panthers because of his age, but he played like he was fresh out of college. Smith finished the day with 7 receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns. The Carolina Panthers scored 10 points so they had to do something good to get into the end zone right?

What three things did the Carolina Panthers do well?

 1) Cam Newton – The Carolina Panthers did not play a good game overall, but Newton was one of the bright spots. Newton finished the game with a 94.9 quarterback rating and his arm was very consistent throughout the game. He was accurate and looked to have chemistry with Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen. Newton will continue to improve as long as his offensive line will show up to work. 
2) Luke – Luke Kuechly is one of the best linebackers in the NFL and had to put the defense on his back. Thomas Davis injured his hamstring against the Steelers and sat out this past game. Kuechly stepped up to the challenge and finished the game with 12 total tackles, and had one pass deflection. I was surprised Luke only had 12 tackles, he was all over the field, and did the best he could to slow down the Ravens offense.
 3) The Weather Was Nice! – I wasn’t sure what to put here for the third thing that was done well. All I could think about was how the nice the weather was in Baltimore. It was sunny and it was 81 degrees at kick-off. It looked like a nice day to be in Baltimore if you were a Ravens fan.

P.S. Kelvin Benjamin had another great game for the Carolina Panthers grabbing five balls for 75 yards and one touchdown. According to the Carolina Panthers, “Benjamin is the only NFL rookie in the past 10 years with 25+ yard touchdown catches in three of the team's first four games.” I didn’t list Benjamin above because I wrote about him in the last two pieces. It looks like he will be an important piece to the Carolina Panthers Super Bowl puzzle.

 C3 UP by +Justin Raymond
Follow me on Twitter @JayRay19

Three things the Panthers did poorly. 


The Panthers are beginning to look like a team searching for itself. The identity established last season after winning the division, going 12-4, and making the playoffs is gone. Part of the reason for that is the missing pieces on this team. Two weeks in a row we have seen the Panthers look noncompetitive. This team has some major holes it needs filled. This week on 3 down we will see some of the deficiencies.

1) Offensive Line- Once again the offensive line was underwhelming. During the early part of the game the line was performing fairly well. We were moving the ball and the running game was being effective. Then after we lose DeAngelo Williams the line began to lose it’s effectiveness. I have no problem personally with these guys, but they are struggling. Yes, they have their moments, but taken as a whole we need to upgrade.
2) Defensive Line- This is really surprising to me because just a year ago this group was our biggest strength. The departure of Greg Hardy has been devastating. I for one did not realize just how much he brings to the line. Yes they miss his pass rushing ability but more than that it seems they are significantly more deficient in stopping the run since he has been absent.  This didn’t become apparent until the Steelers game when running backs Bell and Blount (irony in that last name) both ran for over 100 yards. Standout defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short have not been getting the same sort of push up the middle. The two have been hyper effective at getting tremendous push right up the middle of the offensive line and they have been exceptional at keeping opposing lineman off the linebackers allowing Luke and TD to flow to the ball and make the tackle. These two, Star and Short, have been ineffective in these last two games. They found it difficult to maintain gap responsibility.
This really played into the offensive scheme of both the Ravens and the Steelers. Both teams utilize a spread rushing style where the spread out the defense and look for seams created by the spread and cut back into the hole. This allowed both teams to gash us for big runs. This group will need to get back to last season’s form if we are to improve on defense.
3) Tackling- Again this is one of our 3 down. Surprisingly our defense struggled to bring down ball carriers for a second week in a row. There were numerous times defenders were there to make a play and hit, grabbed, or attempted to arm tackle ball carriers. That is not Carolina Panthers football however. Carolina has been one of the best tackling teams in the league but these last two weeks the team has found bringing down ball carriers more difficult then pass blocking for Cam Newton.
This is an area where the Panthers will need to make an immediate improvement or else it will continue to struggle in stopping the opposing offense. Poor tackling leads to converted third downs (76% third down conversion rate for Ravens) which leads to extended drives which leads to winning the time of possession battle and that leads to points being scored (75% red zone efficiency for Steelers). This is evident by the Panthers giving up 75 points in the last 2 weeks. Tackling is about effort, and the Panthers need to bring more effort.

This is my take on things from the beat down in Baltimore. There were many problems this week but these are my top three. I could have easily had a top ten. This Carolina team has had challenges these last two weeks, but it has to be “next man up” and above all we need to “Keep Pounding.”

C3 Down by +Joe Riollano 
Follow that "Freak'n Puerto Rican" on Twitter @JoeRiollano

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