The Offense had a solid day against the Chiefs, however, Defensive struggles caused the balance to tip in favor of Kansas City.
The Panthers rode into Kansas City with momentum on their side after defeating Philadelphia on Monday Night Football. However, a loss suffered in the Eagles game, veteran NT Ron Edwards, would help to destabilize the Panthers Defensive Line. Without Edwards, Sione Fua, and Frank Kearse were pressed into extended duty against the Chiefs.
Predictably the Panthers front seven wilted under consistent touches, and production, from Jamaal Charles, and even Peyton Hillis. The Chiefs were able to put blockers in space and seal the edge for Charles, who gashed the Defense for repeated 6-8 yard gains; and when that option seemed to exhaust itself, the Chiefs ran draws and belly plays to attack the middle of our defense.
In all, the Chiefs were able to effectively control the pace of the game, and keep Cam Newton and the Panthers Offense off of the field, all while keeping pressure off of Brady Quinn.
Offensively, the Panthers had a very solid game, and were able to put points on the board when given ample opportunity. The Panthers running game was instrumental in moving the ball down the field, as the Panthers had great success with the traditional under-center running plays, and especially the option.
Before jumping into the numbers, here is a quick refresher on the different personnel groupings:
For more info, check out this article.
-The Panthers only ran 51 plays on Offense.
It is usually pretty hard to run plays on offense, when your offense doesn't have the ball.
-Despite appearances, Coach Chudzinski called a very balanced game; 31 passes to 20 runs.
For much of the game, this ratio was much closer to 1:1, however, 10 of the final 11 plays were called as 11 personnel passes, as the Panthers tried to claw their way back into the lead.
-The Panthers ran 35 plays from 11 personnel; 23 passes and 12 runs.
As mentioned above, this number was augmented by the final two series, in which, the final 11 plays were called from 11 personnel.
-Coach Chudzinski called 8 plays out of 12 personnel; 4 passes and 4 runs.
-The Offense ran 5 plays from 21 personnel; 3 passes and 2 runs.
-In a bit of a medley, the Offense ran one play out of 22 personnel (an inside run), one play from the jumbo package, 23 personnel (a Cam Newton draw), and one play from 13 personnel (an incomplete pass intended for Greg Olsen).
-On first down the Offense ran 9 pass plays and 6 run plays.
This number was also inflated by fourth quarter desperation; two first down plays on the very last series were Hail Mary's.
-The Read Option, and it's many cousins, had fantastic success against the Chiefs. The Panthers ran the option 7 times for a grand total of 82 yards (11.71 yards per carry).
Only one play resulted in a gain under 7 yards. The Panthers were very successful using the inverted veer, catching the Chiefs playing to the outside run, allowing Newton to gash them up the interior.
-The under-center running game was nearly as potent; 8 runs for 56 yards, (7 yards per carry) [including one option play].
-Inversely correlated with the Offensive stat, the Panthers Defense was on the field for 66 plays.
-Against the run oriented Chiefs, Coach McDermott called the most man coverage we have seen all season. The Panthers played 24 snaps in man coverage, and 42 snaps in zone coverage.
-As a byproduct of the Chiefs running game, the Panthers spent 43 snaps in the base 4-3 (Man: 17 snaps & Zone: 26).
-The Defense played 11 snaps in the 3-4 Defense (Man: 5 snaps & Zone: 6 snaps).
-Inflated towards the end of the game, the Panthers played 12 snaps in the 4-2-5 (Man: 2 & Zone 10).
-In the waning seconds of the first half, the Panthers played two snaps in a goal line defense, of which looked like a 6-3 front.
On Offense things went swimmingly for the Panthers. On par with the rest of the season, the Panthers trotted out a blend of personnel groups early on in the game in order to test the Chiefs Defense, and look to which groupings/formations gave the Panthers the upper hand in terms of match ups.
The Panthers looked to spread the Chiefs out and force them to take one of their elite pass rushers, either Tamba Hali, or Justin Houston, off of the field, enabling the Panthers to have relative success through the air. Establishing the run on the first series had legitimate benefits that stretched for much of the game; as the Chiefs crept into the box, or had their Safeties peering into the backfield, the Panthers were able to attack them with the vertical passing game, deep down the field, such as the Greg Olsen and Steve Smith TD's, in addition to Brandon Lafell's near big play, and right before that with Cam Newton overthrowing an open Louis Murphy. And as the Panthers threw the ball down the field, it forced Kansas City to afford the Panthers space to operate.
Likely in tangent with the success of the running game, the Panthers were able to stay out of third and long (3rd & 7+), only having 3 third down and long plays, one of which was converted. By staying out of third and long the Offense was able to sustain drives and move the ball down the field.
However, in the end, the Panthers Offense fell into a familiar trap. On their third to last series series, after picking up a first down on a Mike Tolbert checkdown, the Panthers had the ball, first and ten at the 40 yard line. On first down Cam Newton took a sack, dropping the Panthers into 2nd and 18, and one failed run later, 3rd and 19, into which the Chiefs promptly pressured Cam Newton into a batted pass, and a Panthers punt. The penultimate series went similarly, a negative play on first down leading to a broken pass play, which Cam Newton promptly turned into a 9 yard gain, and a third and medium play. On the third and four, the Chiefs' Pass Rush pushed through the Panthers O-Line and forced Cam Newton into a poor pass on a checkdown to Tolbert.
On Defense the Panthers looked to fill the box with 7-8 men, out of their base 4-3 defense, as well as the 3-4 subset. In coverage, the Coaching Staff felt confident leaving Josh Norman, and Josh Thomas in man coverage on the Chiefs WR's, while keeping one deep safety in for Cover 1 or Cover 3 looks.
As the Chiefs found success running their outside stretch plays, the Panthers shifted into 4-3 Over and 4-3 Under looks, trying desperately to seal off the edge, and contain Jamaal Charles.
Through their running prowess, the Chiefs were able to grind down the Panthers pass rush, and make solid gains through the air. Luke Kuechly was hesitant in coverage on a few occasions, while Josh Norman was unable to keep Dwayne Bowe and Company from making plays downfield.
The Panthers Defense could not get off the field, and even in a few occasions where the Defense forced the Chiefs into fourth down, Kansas City was able to convert on fourth and short, and move the chains.
The Chiefs grinding game plan ultimately allowed them to dominate the time of possession, with nearly a 15 minute difference; almost an entire quarter. The Panthers almost overcame this deficit, almost being the operative word, as it has been all year long.
Looking to Next Week:
The Falcons are a familiar foe, and will likely use similar tactics when attacking the Panthers Defense. Look for Julio Jones and Roddy White to move the ball downfield. And with a weakened run defense, the Falcons will probably look to Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers to pound the ball.
Unlike the last meetup, the Panthers may not be able to count on their pass rush this go around. With the end of the season nearing, fatigue may be setting in on the Panthers pass rushers, namely Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy.
Offensively, the Panthers have had a lot of success agains this Falcons Defense over the past two seasons; I'd look for the Panthers to spread out the Falcons and try to establish the run while simultaneously attacking the sidelines in the passing game.