What a difference a half of football makes.
Carolina dominated Minnesota statistically during the first half of their 22-10 loss yesterday while barely edging them on the scoreboard. Minnesota adjusted at the half and got their Trireme's oars all synchronized...to ramming speed, no less...while the Panthers were content to lie in their den, taking a lazy bath.
That's how it looked, metaphorically speaking, to most fans at least. Carolina allowed only about 33 yards in that first half while racking up over 200 of their own.
In the second half things went not just south but NFC South bad for the Panthers. Right now, the NFC South IS bad, with none of the four teams having won more than a single game in three so far, hours before the Atlanta Falcons go lose in the Superdome to put all teams tied for last at 1-2.
That's only a back-handed "prediction" on my end, as I'm assuming New Orleans wins simply due to their home field advantage and that Atlanta keeps on being Atlanta, unable/unwilling to seize opportunities as they are known for ignoring in recent years.
With Ted Ginn being the team's leading receiver with only 62 yards & Kelvin Benjamin seeing a lone target for zero completions & yards, there's something inherently wrong. Panthers fans should know that much just by reading it.
Right there is where I'm pointing my finger, first & foremost...to the coaches. Specifically, Mike Shula.
I know that's not going to be headlines-making in and of itself, but when I went to re-watch the second half of the game an hour or so ago, I noticed a couple of things that I hadn't in live-action.
First, there wasn't nearly as much pre-snap movement on the Viking's DL (defensive line) as I had initially thought. Everson Griffen is about as quick as they come off the snap, but not SO quick that it made me think something bizarre. Sure, there were a couple of plays where Minnesota got some pressure on Cam due to legerdemain, but I'm pretty sure that's the case in any given game with any two teams. Michael Oher had the poor day again (replay has a funny way about stuff like that), but Remmers wasn't nearly so solid as what ProFootballFocus would have you think. They said Remmers gave up 0 sacks & only 2 pressures, but I saw Brian Robison get a sack while he blocked him. Cam held the ball too long & likely took the full "blame" for the sack himself.
Secondly, LT Michael Oher gave up two sacks, according to them, and for the moment I'll just assume they have everything right. They certainly have more resources at their disposal than I do. However, what I kept seeing came back to the same person on the field: the quarterback himself.
It simply looked to me like Cam's internal clock was set on snooze the whole game while getting hit repeatedly didn't wake him up. Either he was holding the ball a very long time because the routes called for it or the routes that were run weren't getting our guys open.
In either case, Cam should have used an outlet/hot route read a lot more than I saw him do. I also didn't see any adjustments in pass plays called in the second half, after it was quite evident the Vikings were able to get to Newton faster than our WRs & TEs could get open.
The ONLY response there is to call quicker passes. It didn't happen. Three steps, throw the ball. It's the only "instant cure" for the sacksies. Call for screens, slants, or hitches instead of fades, posts, or double-moves. Get the offense moving, confident, in rhythm, and then see what that opens up for you. Worked fine for a guy with a lot less talent named Joe Montana.
Post-game, none of the players had answers. One said he thought the team should "go back and do some self-scouting on our tendencies & tells." That's a good idea, but doesn't help Cam be able to hold the ball at will in the pocket with a good rush coming.
During the game, the play-calling seemed pretty vanilla. Run on 1st & 2nd a lot, then throw only when you have to. It's a pattern the team has fallen into under Mike Shula in the past, so a little self-scouting and a few computer-sorted "down and distance tendencies" do need to have a good look at, but that's only a start.
Now that the team has gotten hit in the mouth a couple of times for 2016, we'll see what they're made of and perhaps more importantly, how willing the coaching staff is to change some of their tactics.
If coaches continue to ask this (or any other) offensive line to keep people blocked for four, five or more seconds each play, the results will largely be the same. Sure, teams can call long-developing pass plays. Stop doing it on every pass play! Throw in (literally) some variety. Get some quick, high-percentage throws in. Move the offense & put up some points. Save a few of those long-developing pass plays for 2nd or third & short. Turn your tendencies on their head; run the offense.
Pulling back now for a bigger-picture look to wind down here, the team has a very good interior OL & an average set of offensive tackles. Other teams are going to know this & adjust their own defensive attack accordingly. What baffles me is the fact that our own team doesn't seem to adjust all that well from one half to the next or from game to game so far.
Cam himself said the Minnesota defense "began dictating" what could be done in the second half. More to the point, they dictated what could NOT be done. Short, quick passes seemed to work nicely for their offense. Carolina didn't even try much of that.
When you have the biggest WRs in the NFL in Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess, why does Kelvin only see a single pass attempt made in his direction? After the game, Cam said there's really something wrong when that's going on. It also looks similar in the losses.
Benjamin's a first-round pick from 3 years ago. Funchess is a second-rounder from two years ago.
Why doesn't someone tell Cam to throw the ball at them, to do so more quickly, and why doesn't he try that more often by himself? Seems an obvious question, but I still don't know what the answer is or why.
Apparently, neither do the Panthers.
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