C3 Up, Three Down is a series that identifies three key areas the Panthers succeeded and three areas they failed in their most recent contest. This week's C3 Up, Three Down weeds through the good and bad of Carolina's win over the New Orleans Saints.
Three Things Up for the Carolina Panthers
The complete domination of Carolina over the Saints makes it difficult to choose only 3 things to be up about. We finally saw how good this team can really play. The talent has been there all season and finally the coaches put together an effective game plan the players were able to successfully execute. Yes, the Saints have the 31st ranked defense and their offense was not at full strength, but they are still a dangerous and explosive team. This win was a total team effort and it is great to see it come together, but why is it happening now? This should have been the team we’ve been watching all season. Here are 3 things to be up about:
Offensive Line- This group was able to play their second consecutive game as a unit and it showed. This group really impressed in both pass blocking (Cam was not sacked) and run blocking (Jonathan Stewart 155 yards). The additions of Andrew Norwell and Mike Remmers have helped solidify a group that was in a constant state of flux. If this group can continue to play together at this level, Carolina will make some noise this postseason.
Cam Newton- Funny how the first “3 up” group directly affects this pick. Cam had his best game of the year on the ground and through the air. Cam looked very comfortable in the pocket and made some good throws (21/33 226 yds 3 TDs). But I think it starts for Cam in running the ball himself. He does not need 10 or 12 carries all the time (12 carries for 83 yds 1 TD), just a handful. If he can get going on the ground early he gets into the flow of the game and his passing accuracy goes up. We have seen this throughout Cam’s career and it really was the case this past Sunday. I hope the coaches continue the same type of play calling as what we saw against the Saints.
Jonathan Stewart- Despite the fact head coach Ron Rivera not wanting to dole out any praise for Stewart, I will heap praises for the effort he has put forth in the last two games. Again I point to the fact the first choice of my “3 up” directly affects this player. Stewart showed good vision and patience this week when running the ball. He has been injured so often over the last couple years to see him running like the Stewart we drafted is really nice. He tallied 155 yards and a score against the Saints. The line provided ample running room and Stewart made the most of his opportunities culminating in the 3rd quarter with a 69 yard scamper to pay-dirt. This version of Stewart completely changes the running dynamic on this team and it can be scary good.
The Panthers are still in the hunt for the division crown. To do this,they must continue progressing as a team and stay healthy. With efforts from players and coaching staff similar to what we saw against the Saints, this team can make a deep run into the postseason. After some really shoddy performances, it was great to see how good this team can be.
Three Things Down for Carolina Panthers
With such a complete dismantling of an opponent, one would think there was nothing to write about in 3 down this week. Well as Lee Corso would say “Not so fast my friend”. Yes it was a dominating performance by Carolina, but they did not play a perfect game. Here are 3 things to be down on:
Byron Bell- Once again the human turnstile is singled out as the worst offensive lineman on a team full of bad lineman. I hate it for him but he just does not have what it takes physically to play such an athletically demanding position as LT. Likely to be replaced with the 1st pick in Carolinas draft this season.
Kelvin Benjamin- This kid is good. But for being so good he drops some easily catchable balls. He is a rookie so things like lapses in concentration are going to happen. Had KB been able to hold onto both drops he easily doubles his yardage and perhaps gets another score. Position coach Ricky Proehl will continue to work with KB and the kid will get better. I can’t wait to see how good Benjamin will be 2-3 years from now.
Punt Team- The Panthers should have had time to get all the kinks worked out of their punt coverage unit, but at least there were no blocked punts this week. The coverage by this group is not very good right now.
Any coverage team (punt or kickoff) requires a bit of chutzpa. Think about what is expected from you: running full speed downfield through 11 large (250+ lbs), angry men. To try and locate, a usually much smaller guy, and bring him down with a tackle. And doing all this with the thought of making sure to stay in your running lanes so as not to create a “hole or seam” for the exceptionally quick returner, and keeping your head on a swivel so as not to get blindsided by the one of the aforementioned large angry men.
This is a tall task to ask of anyone. But players are professionals and after all, it is their job. We need to see improvement from this group or this special teams unit may end up costing us a game late in the season.
What a great game Carolina played this week. This team has had this sort of potential and we knew it. I hate the fact that we begin playing our best football in December. It may be possible to get hot, sneak into the playoffs, and steal a win or two from some unsuspecting teams, (Cardinals, Cowboys or Lions) and get to the big game. That is certainly a tall order but it is not anything that has not happened before. We have the team and the talent to do it. Keep Pounding.
By that Freak'n Puerto Rican aka @JoeRiollano