Shake off your lockout blues and turn back the clock, to December 5th, 2010. After a heartbreaking end to the Cleveland Browns the week prior, the Carolina Panthers marched into Seattle still determined to win football games. However, a dominating first half was only followed by inconsistency, a lack of confidence in the gameplan and regret.
We're going to look at the offensive side of the ball and look at how our gameplan simply fell apart.
For the 2nd week in a row, the Panthers offense took the field on their first possession and sustained an impressive touchdown drive. Late in the season it seemed like Carolina was finally finding their feet, surging ahead to a 14-3 lead at halftime.
Before we take a look at the numbers, a quick reminder of the numbers and what they mean. The stats I have break out plays by their personnel grouping. On any given offensive play, six players are always accounted for (the offensive lineman and the quartberback). That leaves five interchangeable players. You identify which types of players are on the field by referring to the personnel grouping number. "21" means "2" running backs and "1" tight end. That only accounts for three players, though. The other two players in this personnel grouping are wide receivers. If the personnel group is 11, that means there is 1 running back, 1 tight end and 3 wide receivers.
With that out of the way, let's jump into the stats... after the jump
Something else that has changed slightly is that I am now recording the yards gained per play. For the purposes of analyzing the efficiency of the offensive gameplan, I count incomplete passes as a play of 0 yards. When breaking down a gameplan, though, you first need to look at how many plays were called by personnel group.
This table contains only what each team called, run versus pass, in any given personnel group. The first number that jumps out to me in this table is 37. The Panthers called nearly 40 plays in the first half and ran a consistently balanced attack.
Look under the "22" column. The Panthers continue to show that when they line up with two running backs and two tight ends, they will run the ball about 95% of the time (conservative estimate). Anytime they line up in this formation, look for the Panthers to make a statement ("We know you know it, and we're going to do it anyway"). If you combine these numbers with the "12" personnel grouping then it's easy to see that when two tight ends are on the field, the Panthers ran the ball 75% of the time. Let's look at how effective they were by personnel group, per play.
During the course of the season, I know there were plenty of people asking for some more open play calling from OC Jeff Davidson. Looking at the Panthers efficiency out of the "11" personnel, you might see why Davidson hesitates before relying on 3 WR sets. Eight plays called in this set (seven of those passes) and the team only mustered a paltry 1.3 yards per play. I don't care how bad the play calling is, poor execution comes into consideration here. The Panthers still managed respectable averages in all other personnel groups.
On a bright note, the 'Cats really took advantage of Seattle's defense when there was 1 running back and 2 tight ends on the field. An impressive 9.2 yards per play on 10 plays (including a 39 yard strike from QB Jimmy Clausen to WR Steve Smith). At the end of the half, Seattle put together two impressive drives that really inflated their stats, but only produced 3 points and a turnover.
In the 2nd half, the game fell apart almost right away.
The Seahawks scored on their opening possession and after a Jimmy Clausen pick-six they never looked back. Everything went the Seahawks way as they piled on the points en route to a 31-14 blowout.
Each team had a comparable number of plays but the balance was completely lost. After running the ball 20 times in the first half, the Panthers ran the ball only 9 times. During the first half, the Panthers worked primarily out of the "12" and "21" sets, which accounted for 23 out of 37 total plays. In the second half, the Panthers only ran these personnel groups 11 times out of 30 total plays.
Instead, the Panthers relied on the "11" personnel group. This isn't too surprising as most teams that fall behind or employ a hurry-up offense make heavy use out of the "11" personnel group. However, after managing only 1.3 yards per play in the "11" group in the first half, why would they lean on this to personnel grouping to catch up?
Let's take a look at the yards per play for the 2nd half and see if these play calls paid off.
The Seahawks defense was determined to clog up the run game and force the Panthers to beat them through the air. I think Davidson gave them exactly what they wanted and way too early. At the beginning of the 4th quarter the score was 24-14. There was plenty of time to stick with Davidson's ball-control offense. The Panthers still posted respectable gains on the ground during the 2nd half but only ran the ball 9 times. In my opinion, one of the best things you can do when the momentum is going the other way is slow the game down. I don't know if Davidson or coach John Fox let the pressure get to them, but they let their gameplan fly out the window far too early.
I leave you with total yards by personnel group for the 1st and 2nd halves. Thanks for reading and feel free to jump into the comments if you have any questions.