Despite a better performance from the Offense, and a solid showing for the most part from the Defense, the Panthers could not seal the deal against Tampa Bay.
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
Step out of line and the man come and take you away
"For What It's Worth" -Buffalo Springfield
Coming off a blowout loss in which the Panthers looked like they didn't belong on the field with the Denver Broncos, Carolina came out and battled against division foe Tampa Bay. The Panthers executed their game plan, and whether it be by luck or skill, they once again held a late lead before squandering it in a most terrible way.
In terms of player performance, we saw the same trends continue this week. The Offensive Line could not generate any push, thus the running game struggled; pass protection was better, but still shoddy. On Defense, our first half run defense was satisfactory, as the Buc's potent run offense was largely unable to impose their will on the Panthers. The pass rush harried Freeman, recording an assist on the Captain Munnerlyn Touchdown, however, a deficiency of depth caused the Panther pass rushers to tire in the second half, exposing the Secondary.
-The Panthers ran 62 plays on Offense (discounting one spike and one kneel).
-The run-pass ratio was fairly balanced: 29 runs to 33 passes.
-The Panthers had the most success, and ran the most plays out of 11 personnel: 45 snaps (25 passes & 20 runs).
-12 personnel saw a slight decrease: 8 snaps (4 passes & 4 runs).
-Coach Chudzinski called 5 plays out of 21 personnel (3 passes & 2 runs).
Five plays, four yards (-1, -8, +6, +8, -1).
-In a concerted effort, 22 personnel saw 3 snaps (1 pass & 2 runs).
Primarily called on first down, the Staff likely wanted to pick up yards on jumbo package runs. It wasn't really successful, picking up gains of +3, -2 (on 3rd down and 1), and +11.
-Jonathan Stewart scored his touchdown out of 23 personnel.
-When running from under center (i.e. the I formation or single back sets) the Panthers averaged 2.13 yards per carry (8 carries for 17 yards).
-The read option saw a mini resurgence; 6 carries for 27 yards (4.5 ypc).
Say what you want, but the read option has been more successful than our traditional power running plays.
-On first down the Panthers passed the ball 8 times, and ran the ball five times.
As part of the game plan to take advantage of the weak Tampa pass defense, the Panthers attempted to pick up yards through the air on first down; most of the rushes came towards the end of the game.
-On Defense, the Panthers played 78 snaps.
-The Panthers played 16 snaps in man coverage and 62 snaps in zone coverage.
While it may not appear like much, this is the most man coverage the Panthers have played since the Week 3 shellacking against the Giants.
-Not indicative of the of the game, the Panthers played 48 snaps in the nickel defense (Man: 10 & Zone: 38).
This number was much lower, but in order to combat the Buccaneers comeback, the Panthers Defense spent the final two series almost exclusively in nickel defense (about 20 plays or so).
-The Defense spent 18 snaps in the base 4-3 Defense (Man: 3 & Zone: 15).
-As the Bucs aren't as familiar with two gapping linemen, the Defense played 16 snaps in the 3-4 (Man: 1 & Zone: 15).
-For the most part appearing in the fourth quarter, the Panthers spent 6 snaps in the 3-3-5 (Man: 2 & Zone: 4).
I believe this move was made to give some of our DE's a breather, as in the later stages of the game, Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, along with Dwan Edwards, were playing almost every snap, without break. The 3-3-5 allowed at least one of our pass rushers to take a snap off.
On Offense, the Panthers sought to take advantage of the Buccaneers porous pass defense by exploiting it on first down, rather than relegating themselves to an almost guaranteed 2nd and 8 or 2nd and 11. Cam Newton struggled in the first quarter, sailing a couple of throws; however, he did a solid job getting his passes off quickly. We saw the Panthers WR's target the Buccaneers man coverage with a mixture of inside routes (primarily posts and bang-8's) and outside routes (5 and 6 routes).
With the relative failure of the running game, the Buccaneers were able to stack the box and disguise blitzes and stuff most running attempts.
Early on, Coach Chudzinski and Newton were able to take advantage of the Buccaneers' stacking the box with 8 men, with Greg Olsen, however for whatever reason, Olsen's targets dried up in the second half, as did the rest of the deep shots.
The Panthers did try to roll Cam out of the pocket in their 12 personnel looks, slanting the protection to the weak side, and having Ben Hartsock block the off-DE, with a RB chipping. This look was mildly successful, yet it did present risks against blitzes and pressures.
Defensively, the Panthers recognized the Buccaneers prowess in running the football and sought to apply seven man fronts on first downs, primarily operating out of the 43 and 34, while occasionally creeping SS Charles Godfrey into the box. Depending on the down and distance, the Panthers would vary their fronts. In the first half the Defense did a good job at keeping Tampa in second and long, while failing to keep the Bucs out of a lot of third and short situations.
Against the Buccaneers option routes, in which the QB and WR choose routes based on the coverage presented, the Panthers DB's made slight, yet ubiquitous changes to their coverages during Josh Freeman's pre snap reads. In addition, the Panthers played a lot of man coverage with two safeties high in the first half, pressing the Tampa's WR's at the LOS before either trailing or dropping into a short/intermediate zone.
Looking Forward to Next Week:
On offense the Eagles are stacked at the skill positions, but like the Panthers, they have struggled on the Offensive Line. I expect we follow a similar plan as we have all year, rush four, and drop seven. With the Eagles two deep threats, I expect we will seen plenty of Cover 2 and Cover 3.
Offensively, I expect the Panthers to try and establish the run game on first down, diverting from this week's trend, and attacking the Philadelphia DB's deep, showing more 21 and 12 personnel looks. It may also be time for another showing of the Panthers trick formations/plays.