Carolina Panthers:Keys to Victory vs Patriots

Tonight's game is the most important game so far this season for Carolina. It seems like week after week we are saying that, but this week it's especially true. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are coming to town, and Carolina will have to play their best game to date in order to beat New England. I don’t know what the coaching staff and the Patriots as a team think of Carolina, but I know New England fans have no respect for the Panthers and every one of them I have spoken to seems to be of the same opinion--that New England will roll the Panthers. I guess they have been so good for so long that they have come to expect wins from their team. I can’t blame them for feeling this way but I do feel as if they are underestimating Carolina. That would be a very big mistake. That is part of the reason I think the Panthers will come out on top Monday night. Let’s see what else will factor into the Panthers win.

The most important factor in this game will be the Panthers' running game. What I mean is how committed the Panthers are to run the ball and how effective they are running it. New England has the third worst run defense. That is to say they are ranked 30th in the league against the run, giving up an average of 128 yards per game. This is a statistic that Carolina needs to take advantage of. This should include running the ball with Cam Newton as well. Quarterback draws and even a few roll outs with the run/pass option will draw the defense toward the line of scrimmage. That will open up the deep passing game, which Carolina should be able to hit late in the game. It would be nice to see Ted Ginn get behind the Patriots secondary and take one to the house. A steady dose of Mike Tolbert, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Cam Newton will wear down the Patriots defense and 2-3 yard runs in the first half turn into 4-5 yard runs in the 4th quarter. This is where Mike Shula and his play calling will be crucial. I know it is not always the most exciting or the most explosive, but for this team it is the most important. Running the ball takes pressure off of Cam, allowing him to get into the flow of the game. I have stressed this point all season. Cam is much better when we allow the game to come to him and allow him to get into a rhythm. For Cam that means running the ball from the pocket and on designed quarterback run plays. We will need to sprinkle in a read option or two, but we need not get infatuated with it. I know the Patriots are going to do all they can to stop the Panthers, run game. So at some point, Carolina will have to rely on Cam Newton’s arm.

Cam has had some passing success this season. He is at his best when the game is allowed to come to him slowly this is done by making use of a good running attack. Then he can get into a flow by throwing short crossing routes or to backs out of the backfield just to get into a comfort zone before trying anything downfield. He has done an excellent job this year of not getting out of sorts when he does make a bad throw or even throws an interception. And truth be told, he has been at his best on third down. That as many fans know is the money down and it is vital to keep drives alive. Converting 3rd downs leads to touchdowns instead of having to settle for field goals. Cam will have to be at his best to win Monday. He does not have to win the game for us but he needs to be careful with the ball. Turnovers will doom this team.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, New England is getting healthy. That means the offense is getting better as players get back on the field. The one area Pats fans feel they have the advantage is in the passing game. They hold Carolina’s secondary in very low regard. It is a mistake to not consider this unit dangerous. The Panthers secondary has been the biggest surprise of the defense this year. New England will not find it easy to throw the ball to their receivers because the defensive backs do a good job in coverage. Additionally the front four of Carolina is arguably the best at getting pressure on quarterbacks without the use of additional blitzers. That means Carolina can leave 7 defenders back in coverage. The Panthers have their hands full with the Patriots offense. They need to play sound fundamentally and make every tackle. The game will be won by a greater margin if the Panthers can force the Patriots into turnovers. Pressuring Brady will hurry his throws and could lead to a few interceptions. A few of those and it will be very difficult for Brady and company to win.

This game for the Panthers is simple. No turnovers, win the time of possession battle, and convert third down opportunities and they will win this game. If we are able to pull this win out, we will be on everyone’s radar. My prediction is Carolina 23 and New England 16. Keep Pounding!

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