Breaking Down the Data: Dolphins vs. Panthers

After a less than stellar performance last week, the Panthers were looking to bounce back against the visiting Miami Dolphins. In contrast to last week, the Offense got off to a fast start, while the Defense was able to generate a pass rush with minimal blitzing. The game was really a tale of two halves, as Coach Rivera called the dogs off after three series, and by the start of the third quarter, the Panthers were filtering in their third team players.

The Panthers Offense was able to amass 390 yards of offense, while the Dolphins were held 296 yards, 135 of which came during the final two drives of the game. Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill was only able to muster 99 yards of offense. In comparison, the Cam Newton led first team offense accrued 199 yards on only 3 drives. The play calling was still vanilla, however this week the Offense and the Defense were able to execute their assignments.

Raw Numbers:


-The Panthers Offense ran 75 plays on Friday.

The Panthers first and second team offenses were able to sustain drives and move the ball down the field. This number is much better than we saw last week, and it is hardly indicative of the 23 points the Panthers put on the scoreboard. Without the penalties, and perhaps a Mike Tolbert fumble, the Panthers may have scored into the thirties.

-The play calling was much more balanced this week, as the Panthers called 39 passes and 33 runs (Not counting the two kneel downs).

This number is much more balanced than it was last week. Against Miami OC Rob Chudzinski likely wanted to see how the running game matched up against a stout Dolphins Front Seven.

-The Panthers operated in 11 personnel 32 times, passing it 23 times and running it 9 times.

Once again the Panthers ran the majority of their plays in 11 personnel. However, the Offense didn't heavily rely on 11 personnel until the third team offense and Jimmy Clausen were put into the game. Just like last week, the Panthers passed much more than they ran with the 3 WR set. 11 personnel also allows the Offensive Staff to get a look at 3 WR's every play, giving them more tape to judge each of the WR's.

-The Offense lined up in 21 personnel 28 times, at a ratio of 11 passes to 17 runs.

In tangent with 11 personnel, the Panthers utilized 21 personnel heavily. The play calling was fairly balanced, and allowed the Panthers to put both Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart in the game on the same play. Typically the Offense would line up in a singleback set, with the Full Back motioning in to the backfield, most often in the I Formation or it's strong and weak counterparts.

-The Offense was aligned in 12 personnel for 9 downs, with 4 passes and 5 runs.

As we predicted in the offseason, the Panthers haven't relied on 12 personnel. In fact, the Panthers only ran two plays in 12 personnel with the first team offense. Seven of the snaps came with Derek Anderson at QB.

-On the second drive, the Panthers had three plays inside the red zone. Operating 22 personnel on one play (a pass), and 23 personnel on the subsequent plays (two runs).

This was a good opportunity to view the Panthers jumbo-sets on offense. We saw them run one play in 22 personnel just inside the 20 yard line, where Ben Hartsock ran a seam route catching a pass from Newton and rolling to the 1 yard line.

-In a near stellar performance, the Offensive Line only surrendered one sack.

The Lineman gave the QB's time to plant their feet and find open targets, a trend we did not see last week. However, the third team offensive line was ineffective, and gave up the lone sack on Jimmy Clausen, while giving up pressure on nearly every play.

- The Panthers Offense picked up 24 first downs. Rushing the ball 15 times after achieving a first down, and passing it 9 times after achieving a first down.

As mentioned above, the Panthers were able to move the ball effectively. Unlike last week however, the Panthers sought to pick up yards on first down before airing it out.

-After achieving a first down, the Panthers Offense lined up in 21 personnel 13 times, 11 personnel 5 times, 12 personnel 3 times, and 22 and 23 personnel one time.

This trend complies with the numbers above, the Offense typically ran the ball on first down, and 21 personnel gives the Offense the ability to both run the ball and pass.


Disclaimer: I decided to only write about the first half coverages and fronts, as the second half was extremely vanilla, and devoid of any game planning, probably because the coaches wanted to gauge the talent of the players, not the system.

-The Panthers Defense was on the field for 74 plays (33 plays in the first half).

The Panthers Defense was largely able to contain the Dolphins first team offense from sustaining long drives. And while 74 plays is a lot, it is not out of the ordinary for a West Coast Offense, as the Offense relies on short passes and runs to move the ball down the field.

-The Panthers lined up in a base 4-3 for 16 snaps in the first half.

This number isn't higher because the Dolphins utilized a lot of 3 WR sets. The Panthers Defensive Line was able to generate pressure and succeeded in sacking Ryan Tannehill three times. By my count, the Defense only blitzed three times during the first half: once on first down, and twice on third down and long.

-The Defense was aligned in a Nickel Defense (4-2-5) for 17 plays in the first half.

As I mentioned above, the Dolphins utilized a lot of 3 WR sets, forcing the Panthers Defense to send off a LB in favor of an extra DB. The two LB's were typically Luke Kuechly and James Anderson, while more often than not, Safety Jordan Pugh entered the game for nickel sets. The 'Big Nickel' set is most often used to slow down two TE sets. However, it may be the case that the Defensive Staff values Pugh's coverage skills over those of RJ Stanford and Josh Thomas.

-In the 4-3 Defense was in zone coverage 12 plays, and man coverage for 4 plays.

The Defense played a lot of Cover 1 in the 4-3. Godfrey would mosey into the box and either pick the slot WR/TE, or drop back into a deep zone right after the snap in Cover 2. The Defensive Staff likely wanted to see how the players handled zone coverage, instead of trying to contain any threats in the Dolphins WR Corps. For what it's worth, Josh Norman and Chris Gamble were slow to break on the ball a couple of times, but I wouldn't hold that against them going forward.

-When aligned in the 4-2-5 the Panthers Defense was in zone coverage for 8 plays, and man coverage for 9 plays.

The Defense was balanced in the nickel sets. The Panthers played a lot of Cover 2 and 3 in the 4-2-5.

-When the Dolphins were in 3rd and 7+ yards to go, the Defense lined up in the 4-3 once (zone coverage) and the 4-2-5 six times (zone coverage 4 snaps/man coverage 2 snaps).

The Dolphins found themselves in a lot of 3rd and long situations, and predictably brought out 3 WR sets, thus the increase in nickel sets.

-In 2nd and 7+ yards to go, the Defense lined up in the base 4-3 6 times, playing man coverage twice, and zone coverage on four downs.

The Defense may have stayed in the base 4-3 on second and long so as to prevent the Dolphins from making third down attainable through the run game.

-Also of note, in the last series of the first half the Defense lined up in a hybrid front with Jason Williams lined up as a 7 technique. Williams surprisingly held his own. Later in the third quarter, the Panthers ran three consecutive plays in a 3-4 alignment, as well as a hybrid front with Frank Alexander lined up in a three point stance, while Thomas Keiser or Antwan Applewhite would be lined up in a two point stance. Neither alignment was very successful, and the Dolphins picked up first downs against both fronts.


QB Cam Newton and the first team offense played 23 snaps. The heavy lifting was done with 11 and 21 personnel, each being utilized 9 times. In 11 personnel were the epitome of balance, passing five times and running the ball four times, ditto for 21 personnel; five passes and four runs. One back shot gun ( or as I called it, gun 1b) and the I formation were the primary formations for the first team offense. Cam looked great throwing the ball, he stood tough in the pocket, found WR's, and threw lasers to his targets. Cam would finish with a QB Rating of 138.1.


Derek Anderson played 24 downs with the second team offense. 10 of his plays came out of 11 personnel, and 9 of the 10 were passes. In contrast the Offense was balanced in 21 and 12 personnel, running 7 plays in 21 personnel, four runs and three passes, and 6 plays in 12 personnel, 3 runs and three passes. DA looked pretty good, however he did not always have the luxury of time in the pocket, affecting some of his throws. Derek would finish with a QB Rating of 70.7.


Jimmy would see the most playing time, playing almost the entire third quarter and the whole 4th quarter, however, that time only amounted to 25 snaps. The Offense struggle under Clausen, after leading the team down the field for a field goal, the Jimmy led Offense would punt on two consecutive possessions. The third team offense only lined up in two personnel groupings, 11 personnel: 13 plays (9 runs and 4 passes), and 21 personnel: 12 plays (4 passes and 8 runs). Jimmy threw some nice balls, however the offensive line wasn't able to give him enough time consistently. On a side note, Friday was the only time I've ever seen Jimmy Clausen get angry; after getting his helmet ripped off of him in a scrap, Jimmy emerged from the piling with a scowl, seemingly yelling at the referee. Jimmy would finish the game with a 58.9 QB Rating.

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