Despite four more Jake Delhomme interceptions, Panthers coach John Fox blamed the entire offense for Sunday's loss to the Jets in his press conference Monday. The four turnovers obviously hurt, but the Panthers defense forced three New York turnovers.
Fox watched the tape of the loss, and what he likely saw in the running game was just as bad as a few of Delhomme's passes: An offensive line that failed to pick up blitzes against a defense that does not disguise its desire to blitz (just like it failed in the season opener against the Eagles) and did not finish blocks in the running game. In addition, running backs who did not run as hard and well as they usually do.
The result was the Panthers, a team that relies heavily on its running game, mustered only 75 yards rushing on 25 carries (three yards per attempt). That was their worst output since they ran for just 73 yards in a loss to Dallas eight games ago, and their second-worst output in 21 regular season games dating back to last season.
Unsuccessful running plays stalled Panthers drives and left them in several second- and third-and-long situations. They had to call more pass plays than they probably wanted to, and that put too much burden on the immobile Delhomme and the undermanned passing game -- especially against a blitzing defense. A few poor runing plays stand out as emblematic of the Panthers' struggles. Here is a look at what happened and how they failed:
Situation: Third-and-10, ball on Jets 22. Jets lead 7-0. 11 minutes to play in second quarter.
Formations: The Panthers lined up with one back, an H-back and tight end to the left, a receiver in the left slot and a receiver wide right. The Jets used four linemen with a defender on each side of the line showing blitz. Three more defenders were in the box and a corner was in press coverage.
What happened: The Panthers had moved to a first down at the New York 22 following a big punt return by Captain Munnerlyn. But two DeAngelo Williams runs yielded no yards and set up this third-down play -- a play in which Williams ran right for no gain.
How it happened: The H-back and right guard pulled right, and Williams followed them on a counter play. The Jets rushed six defenders. When Williams took the handoff, two other defenders crashed. The Jets got penetration and Williams had no holes to run through. He was dropped by a gang of Jets at the 22.
The result: The Panthers had to settle for a field goal by John Kasay, cutting the Jets lead to 7-3.
Situation: Second-and-1, Panthers 40. 14-3 Jets. 1:54 to play in third quarter.
Formations: The Panthers lined up with one back, one receiver wide right and a bunch formation left. The Jets used four linemen with one defender on each side showing blitz, two more defenders in the box and a corner in press coverage.
What happened: Williams took a pitch left and was tackled for a 1-yard loss.
How it happened: As Williams took the pitch, the left guard pulled. Williams followed him and Dante Rosario, lined up in the slot. A Jets defensive lineman blew up Rosario at the 35 and another defensive lineman knocked guard Mackenzy Bernadeau onto the ground. Williams bounced the play towards the sideline to avoid those two linemen, but encountered safety Eric Smith. He had avoided a block attempt by left tackle Travelle Wharton, and came up and drilled Williams for the loss.
The result: Three failed blocks cost the Panthers a first down. On the next play Carolina called for a pass and Delhomme was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Carolina then punted on fourth down.
Situation: First-and-10, Jets 11. 14-3 Jets. 12:50 to play in fourth.
Formations: The Panthers lined up in I-formation with two tight ends right and a receiver wide left. The Jets used four linemen with a defender on each side showing blitz, two more defenders in the box and a corner in press coverage.
What happened: Williams ran outside left for 1 yard.
How it happened: One tight end went in motion left. and set as an H-back. Williams took a handoff and followed his fullback up the middle. As he took the handoff, the eight defenders in the box attacked and a deep safety quickly crashed as well. Williams likely saw the ninth defender coming and cut to the outside. He made the cut a bit late, so he had to run wide to avoid the safety. Jets Corner Darrelle Revis fought off a block from Panthers receiver Steve Smith and stood in front of Williams. No other defender was between Revis and the end zone, but Revis dove and took out Williams at the 10.
The result: The Panthers faced a second-and-9 at the 10. After two incomplete passes, they settled for another Kasay field goal and trailed 14-6.
Situation: First-and-10, Carolina 30. 14-6 Jets. 8:47 to play in fourth.
Formations: Carolina lined up in I-formation with one receiver wide left, one tight end right and one H-back right. The Jets used three linemen with a defender on each side showing blitz, three other defenders in the box, a corner in press coverage and a safety in space at the Carolina 39.
What happened: Tailback Jonathan Stewart ran up the middle for a loss of 1 yard.
How it happened: Stewart took the handoff and followed his fullback (Rosario) up the middle. He had a seam to run in between right guard and tackle. But instead of running there, Stewart bounced the play outside to the right. Eric Smith was waiting for him at the 30. He tried to deke Smith and cut toward the sideline, but Smith and a trailing defensive lineman combined to tackle him for the loss.
The result: The Panthers faced a second-and-11 at the 29. After two more incomplete passes, they punted. The Jets scored the clinching field goal on the ensuing drive.