Breaking down the data: Panthers vs. Eagles

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

With much prodding and encouragement from the Eagles, the Carolina Panthers were able to secure a victory on Monday Night Football.

It wasn't pretty; it didn't teach us very much; and if anything, we left Philadelphia in worse condition than we entered it in. However, a win is a win, is a win.

Cam Newton and the Offense came out firing, and were able to take advantage of poor coverage by the Eagles, before the Eagles were able to slow down the Panthers running game, and generate some pressure on Newton.

The Defense on the other hand, was not impressive; Bryce Brown and the Eagles' running game were able to thrash the Panthers run defense, specifically in absence of Ron Edwards. Our front seven could not shed blocks quick enough, and our LB's were often one step behind the Eagles' runners.

Raw Numbers:

-The Offense ran 63 plays (not including two kneel downs).

-The Panthers were fairly balanced on Offense; 35 passes and 28 runs.

-Coach Chudzinski called 32 plays out of 11 personnel; 22 passes and 10 runs.

-16 snaps were spent in 12 personnel; 6 passes and 10 runs.

-The Offense ran 11 plays from 21 personnel; 5 passes and 6 runs.

-22 personnel saw two snaps, both coming in the first half. Both were passes, one of which was the Gary Barnidge TD catch.

-We saw a return of 31 personnel, the inverted T formation, in addition to 14 personnel, one of our jumbo packages. Both of which were runs, including Cam's first TD run.

-On first down, the Panthers passed the ball 10 times, and ran the ball 8 times.

This was really a tale of two halves; the first half ratio was 8 passes to 1 run.

-The traditional/conventional running game from under center had it's largest success of the season against Philadelphia; 16 attempts for 50 yards (3.125 yards per carry).

Most of this success came in the first quarter: 5 attempts for 34 yards, 6.8 yards per carry. The success would taper off; Carolina finished the game with 11 attempts for 16 yards (1.45 ypc).

-The Read Option did not fare so well, as Philadelphia played solid defense, and stuck to their assignments: 6 rushes for 12 yards (2 yards per carry).

This immediately following a blowout loss to RGIII's Redskins.

-Of the Panthers 11 third down plays, 7 came from third down and long (3rd & 7+). The Panthers predictably passed the ball every time, and converted twice, one of which was a Cam Newton scramble (conversion percentage of 29%).

This is a trend that has dogged the Panthers all season: falling third and long. If the Panthers can avoid third and long, they usually sustain drives and pick up points, if not, we see long stretches of inactivity, such as the Denver game. It is my belief that this stems from an ineffective running game.

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-The Panthers Defense only spent 49 snaps on the field.

This low number is buttressed by a remarkably low 17 second half plays, which of course is, in part, the product of 3 fumble recoveries.

-The Panthers played 9 snaps in man coverage and 40 snaps in zone coverage.

-Philadelphia's personnel dictated that the Panthers counter with nickel defense; 31 snaps (Man: 4 & Zone: 27).

Philly spread us out and then ran it down our throats; not a bad strategy.

-The Defense spent 11 downs in the base 4-3 (Man: 2 & Zone: 9).

-McDermott called 3 plays from the 3-4 (Man: 1 & Zone:2), in addition to 3 plays from the 3-3-5 (Man: 1 & Zone: 2).

-We also saw one play from our dime package (4-1-6) (zone coverage), and on one of the most important plays of the game (the Eagles fourth quarter 4th and inches attempt) a 4-4 front (man coverage).

Game plan:

The Panthers came into this game looking to pound the rock and attack the Philadelphia DB's deep. Of the first fifteen plays, we had 8 runs for a total 49 yards, and in the first half the Panthers had 5 pass plays of over 10 yards. Against an average, if not below average, Eagles Front Seven the Offense was able to pick up tough yards in the running game early on, keeping them out of third and long.

However, as the Eagles stabilized, and the run game dried up, Cam Newton extended drives with his legs. The Eagles play a lot of man high coverage, leaving their DB's out of the equation when it comes to QB scrambles. As such, Newton was able to pick up crucial chunks of yardage with his feet, including a key first down on the Panthers third touchdown drive.

From that point, prime field position, in addition to quality play calling (quick throws, and a timely read option look or two) allowed the Panther Offense to coast into 10 more points and the win column.

On Defense the Panthers looked to force young Nick Foles into making mistakes in the passing game, by sugaring coverages and dropping seven in coverage, while allowing the front four to generate pressure. However the Philadelphia Coaching Staff did not comply with the Panthers wishes.

The Eagles relied heavily on the running game, and when the Panthers pressure became too much in the passing game, the Eagles turned to three step drops and quick throws. I wouldn't be too concerned about the pass rush moving into the next few weeks. However, the lack of depth problem that has plagued the front four this season may come back to hurt the Panther Pass Rush in the final quartet of games this year.

In run defense the Panthers struggled shedding blocks, and did not maintain consistent proper gap discipline against the Eagles, resulting in a big day for the Eagles' running game.

On a side note, I have been fairly impressed with Sherrod Martin's play over the past few weeks. And while, much to Jon Gruden's chagrin, he missed two possible interceptions, Martin read Foles very well, and was able to make a few tackles in run defense.

All things considered, the game may not have been as close had it not been for an unlucky play call on the Bryce Brown 65 yard run, or an unnecessary pass interference penalty on Haruki Nakamura.

On Brown's big run, the Panthers called a strong side zone blitz, with nickel back Captain Munnerlyn blitzing from the strong side, and weak side DE Nate Chandler dropping into coverage. However, the Philadelphia TE went in motion, switching sides on the line, giving the Eagles a numbers advantage; the play call being a stretch run. At the snap Chandler dropped back in coverage, effectively surrendering the edge to the Eagles Blockers. With blockers in space, Brown wisely kept to the outside and took it to the house. On the same play, Jeremy Maclin, Captain Munnerlyn's original mark, ran a skinny post route, occupying Sherrod Martin's attention for a split second; had Martin immediately sold out for the run, and the play call actually been play action, Maclin would have easily picked up 20+ yards. Consequentially, Martin had a bad angle when moving on Brown. Simply put, bad luck.

Looking to Next Week:

The Kansas City Offense will likely run through All-Pro caliber RB Jamaal Charles, which means we will most likely operate out of the base 4-3. I expect the Panthers will load up the box against Charles, daring the Chiefs to beat them deep. Don't expect many 3-4 looks as the Chiefs themselves are a 3-4 defense.

The Chiefs, despite their record, have a lot of talent on their defense, built around the pass rushing ability of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. I don't expect that Cam will have a clean pocket to operate out of. The first few series will be crucial; if the Panthers can set the tone with a few scores, they might be able to put the game out of reach. I'd look for quick passes early on, as the Panthers look to stay out of third and long.

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