With the San Francisco 49ers coming to Bank of America Stadium, it is time to take a look at what the Panthers need to do to win the game and avoid an unimaginable 0-2 start. The 49ers shut out their NFC West rival in last week’s opener with the score of 28-0. They shut down Todd Gurley and made St Louis glad the team moved to Los Angeles. Was it a bad foe or good 49er mojo?
Only time will tell how good the 49ers are, but there are three things that are keys to this game on Sunday: 1- Out pressure the opponent 2- Anticipate Chip’s fast pace, and 3- Spread things around.
Out Pressure The Opponent
Here are some stats that jump out at me as I look back at Week 1: The Panthers had two sacks but gave up three. Also the 49ers had two sacks and gave up zero. And to make it worse, the Panthers’ two sacks came on blitzes. One was from Tre Boston and the other from Kurt Coleman. Not that that in and of itself is bad, but it tells me that our Defensive Line was not generating pressure. Kony Ealy and KK Short need to get after opposing QBs if the Panthers are to make a run at Super Bowl 51. And Blaine Gabbert showed that he’s more athletic than expected and will get out and run himself, causing the Panthers to have to be disciplined in their pressure. As John Fox used to say there are two kinds of pressure: The kind you apply and the kind applied on you. Win that battle and you usually win the game.
Chip’s Fast Pace
One of the biggest challenges for the Panthers (and most any team) is facing a team with a new coach or scheme. The Panthers lost on opening day a few years ago to the Greg Schiano Tampa Bay Bucs, two years ago against Chip Kelly’s Eagles on Monday Night and this year against a new QB in Denver. The Panthers dominated the Bucs and the Eagles after facing them previously and were able to prepare. Will the Panthers be prepared tomorrow for Chip’s antics? Was their experience against him in Philly enough?
Chip likes to run the ball and to run a hurry up offense. The Panthers need to be prepared for the fast pace and how to move different personnel in and out to avoid fatigue. Think about this, The Broncos ran 57 plays last Sunday against the Panthers and the 49ers ran 77 against the Rams. That is 40% more plays and the Panthers had better be ready. Carlos Hyde is the number one weapon on the 49ers and Star Lotulelei and Vernon Butler absolutely must do their job and limit him or it could be a long day for the Panthers. I think the target has to be to keep Hyde to under 100 yards and the 49ers to under 65 plays.
Spreading Things Around
Last year, the Panthers had the number one ranked Offense in the NFL by averaging 32 points per game. It is too early to say that the Panthers won’t do that again, but one thing to watch is will Cam get any WR not named Kelvin Benjamin involved? Last week (and two years ago), it was essentially Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen getting the ball. Against Denver, Olsen had seven receptions, KB had six and no one else had more than one. To be successful, the Panthers need to get Philly Brown, Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn, Jr. the ball. This team was at it’s best a season ago when Ted Ginn had big games. Speaking of Ted Ginn, I want to see that reverse to him run at least three times. Even if they aren’t successful they make the pont to the opposing team that they have to be ready for it. That thread helps to keep the opposing D from collapsing and helps running lanes. The number to watch is how many reverses we run (three is the over/under) and are there at least three WRs with four or more catches. Do those two things I see great things for the Panthers on Sunday.
Bringing It All Together
To move to 1-1 on Sunday, the Panthers have to get more pressure than they give up, they have to be prepared for the 49ers fast-paced game plan and they have to spread things around. The 49ers only had 170 passing yards a week ago and scored 28 points, so the focus absolutely has to be on stopping Carlos Hyde and on keeping Gabbert in the pocket. Do these things and we’ll have a happy C3 podcast on Tuesday night. If we don’t then you will all have to intervene as I don’t think the Professor’s heart can take an 0-2 start. As a matter of fact, mine can’t either. We need to win this one. Go Panthers.