SuperCam Can't Lift A Deadweight Defense To A Win

Do you want the good news first, or the bad news?

The Good News, No Wait, ... The Incredibly Great News!!!!!!!!! 

Cam Newton is even better in the NFL than he was in college (the wins will come). Cam has passed for 854 yards in his first 2 starts, breaking the old rookie record by around 220 yards. He also has 2 of the 3 Panthers highest passing game totals in Panthers history (422 and 432 yards, Winkie's 2nd with 423 yards), in only his first 2 gams, but you probably know all these records better than I do.  

In Today's game Cam was almost the Panthers whole offense, going 28 of 46, for 432 yards, with 2 TD's (1 passing and 1 rushing), though he had 3 int's, but he also lead the Panthers in rushing with 10 carries for 53 yards, a little over 3/4ers of the Panthers total rushing yards in the game. In the first week's games Cam was 24 of 37, for 422 yards, with 3 TD's (2 passing and 1 running), but 1 int, along with 8 carries for 18 yards. Who would have expected that Cam would be even better in his 2nd start (against the world champs) than in his 1st?

Cam also has the unique ability to use his talent to bring out the talent in others. He's helped revive the careers of Steve Smith and Jeremy Shockey, and in time it will spred to others. Winning is like a contagion that Cam will in time infect the whole team with. The Panthers pass blocking improved a little with only 3 sacks by the Packers, and the 3rd down conversion rate improve to 46% (6 of 13).

The only major component lacking in the Panthers offense with Cam Newton at QB is the short yardage offense when they get near the goalline, but that's not Cam's fault, it's the lack of a running game that keeps the Panthers offense stalling out near the goalline. The good news is that this problem is largely the result of playing blitz heavy 3-4 defenses in the first 2 games. These 2 3-4 defenses often used multiple players blitzing on each play, as a way to both pressure a rookie QB and take away his running game. This most often left the RB's to run head on into LB's filling the gaps. The Panthers could add a FB as a lead blocker, but against blitzing 3-4 defense the Panthers need a 7 man line that has a TE on each end, tough they could achieve this by letting Steve Smith be the only WR (TE Greg Olsen can split outside, and has the speed to go deep as well). This likely won't be a problem against 4-3 defenses, but the even better news is that (baring a mid-season skeem change) the Panthers will only face a 3-4 defense 2 more times this season, October 23rd against  the Redskins, and December 18th against the Texans.

Now The Bad News, Wildfires Burn Unchecked Across The Defenseless Carolina Wilderness:

The Panthers defense has followed a bad 1st game (allowing 394 total yards, 295 passing, and 99 rushing), with a even worse 2nd game (allowing 419 yards, 295 passing, and 124 rushing).

The Panthers have allowed over 300 yards passing in each game. The Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb was 18 of 27 (66.7%), for 309 yards, 2 TD's, and 1 int, in the opening game. In today's game Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was 19 of 30 (63.3%), for 308 yards, with 2 TD's

Though the rushing totals against the Panthers of 99 and 124 yards in the first 2 games don't seem all that bad, just dig a little deeper and look at their yards per carry. In the 1st game against the Cardinals RB "Bennie" Wells had 18 carries, for 90 yards, a 5.0 yard average. In the 2nd game today against the Packers had 19 carries, for 124 yards, a 6.5 yard average, with their top rusher Starks having 9 carries, for 85 yards, a 9.4 yards per carry. The only reason this weakness in run defense hasn't been more exploited is that both teams offenses tilt toward the pass, and the Panthers are no great shakes in pass defense either.

Some posted today that the Panthers defense was greatly improved in the 2nd game against the Packers, than it was in the 1st game against the Cardinals. What are they thinking? 419 yards of offense by the Packers is nothing to brag about. It's actually much worse than that, 410 of those yards came in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters alone. Thanks to Randall Cobb's lost fumble on the Panthers first kickoff, the Packers only had 1 offensive series in the 1st quarter, a 3 and out which came up a yard short of a 1st down. So it was like the Panthers offense played all 4 quarters, but the Packers offense only played 3 quarters.

Largely thanks to the Packers only having 9 yards of offense in the 1st quarter, the Packers finished the 1st half with only 7 1st downs, 126 yards of total offense (99 passing and 27 rushing), and Rodgers was 10 of 17, for 99 yards.

In the 3rd quarter the Packers doubled their passing yards to 198 yards, and and quadrupled their rushing yards to 109 yards.

The Packers only had 2 1st downs in the 4th quarter, but it was a BIG play quarter for the Packers, with 93 passing yards, and 15 yards rushing.

One poster even proclaimed that big plays don't matter, because all teams give up big plays. However, the large number of big gaines allowed by the Panthers defense is best indicated by the yardage numbers compared to the number of 1st downs. The Cardinals had 394 yards of total offense, but only 15 1st downs, while the Panthers had 26 1st downs, and 477 yards of total offense.The same patern was repeated by the Packers with 419 yards of total offense, but only 16 1st downs, while the panthers again had 26 1st downs, and 475 total net yards of offense.

I don't feel the Panthers pass defense is as bad as it may have looked, because it's largely due to the lack of any pass rush from the DT's and LB's (no sacks so far), and a lack of quality backups at DE for Charles Johnson (2 sacks) and Greg Hardy (1 sack). Maybe the signing of Ronald Fields as the 4th DT will help the rotation a little, preventing them from being so exhausted in the 2nd half. Thank goodness the Packers didn't use a hurry up no huddle offense all game or they might have scored 50, as the Panthers defense got totally exhausted.

i'm sure the Panthers defense will improve in time. The Jaguars QB's aren't near the threat of the 2 faced so far, but MJD might go off for 150-175 yards  rushing. However, if the trends established in the first 2 games continue, the Panthers theme song for this season could be the 80 song "Burning Down The House" (in a good way for Cam and the offense, and a bad way for the defense).

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