Breaking down the data: Panthers vs. Cardinals

Christian Petersen

Numbers and pictures from Carolina's loss versus Arizona.

The Panthers finished the first half of last Sundays game with 264-yards of total offense; on pace to rack up more than 500-yards of offense. The second half saw the opposite end of that specter, with Carolina finishing with 79-yards of offense over six drives, resulting in zero points.

Again we saw Cam Newton under tremendous pressure from the opposing pass rush, as Arizona followed the same general ideology of Carolina's previous opponents, zone blitzing ad nauseam while maintaining deep zones. In all Newton was sacked 7 times, a season high. LB's Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby made their presence felt, combining for four sacks. In fact, Arizona blitzed on every Newton sack except for DE Calais Campbell's safety. Unlike some previous opponents, Arizona also had a fine secondary to cover their blitzes, highlighted by Patrick Peterson, who was left in single man-coverage with Steve Smith for much of the afternoon.

Carolina countered, or at least attempted to counter, the Cardinals' blitzing with screens, a few packaged plays, and max protect protection schemes, keeping in TE's and RB's to block.

Beyond a doubt, the Panthers pass protection was horrible. However, I think Newton stands to shoulder some of the blame for the sacks taken.

The Numbers

Personnel Run Pass Total
11 4 27 31 (48%)
12 3 13 13 (20%)
21 7 2 9 (14%)
22 3 2 5 (8%)
31 1 1 2 (3%)
23 1 0 1 (2%)
14 1 0 1 (2%)

Personnel 1st half 2nd half
11 pass 10 17
11 run 3 1
12 pass 10 3
12 run 3 0
21 pass 2 0
21 run 4 3
22 pass 1 1
22 run 2 1
31 pass 0 1
31 run 0 1
23 pass 0 0
23 run 1 0
14 pass 0 0
14 run 1 0

After it became a two score game at 15-6, the Panthers almost exclusively operated with 11 personnel, towards the end of the third quarter. As a result, the run-pass ratio careened in favor of the pass, 20:45. Not coincidentally, all but one of the sacks surrendered, again save Campbell's safety, came from 11 personnel.

The read option plays had a bounce back, but largely on the strength of one late half Mike Tolbert pick up of 20-yards, finishing with seven attempts for 43-yards (6.1 YPC). With RB Kenjon Barner's debut, OC Mike Shula called two plays from 31 personnel in the second half, totaling a mere eight-yards.

Front Total
4-3 21 (41%)
4-2-5 33 (59%)

The Panthers defense was fairly monogamous, choosing only work out of four man fronts.

*Discounting one goal line play and three kneel downs.

In pass defense:

Front & Coverage 1st half 2nd half Total
4-3 man 0 0 0
4-3 zone 8 4 12
4-2-5 man 3 0 3
4-2-5 zone 7 9 16

Arizona made concerted effort to throw against the Panthers 4-3 set, also opting to run heavily against the 4-2-5 set. Especially early on, the Cardinals had moderate success running draw plays against the Carolina front.

Pocket presence and quick decision making are critical when facing a high-octane blitz. Over the course of last Sunday's game, and over his career, Cam Newton has flashed both great and substandard pocket presence in addition to decisive, as well as lethargic, decision making.

Here, late in the second quarter, is an example of superb pocket presence from Newton.

Cnp1_medium

Arizona is showing blitz.

Cnp2_medium

The Cardinals bring five rushers. As soon as he finishes his drop, Newton faces pressure from the LDE. Cam does a great job of keeping his eyes downfield, and climbs into the pocket to avoid the rusher.

Cnp3_medium

Immediately, Newton is faced with another pass rusher as Calais Campbell defeats Chris Scott's block. Effortlessly, Cam slides slightly out of the pocket, all while keeping his eyes downfield, and finds WR Brandon Lafell heading for the sideline.

Cnp4_medium

Newton sets his feet and delivers a solid throw to Lafell before taking the hit from Jon Abraham. Beautiful.

In this play the Cardinals again blitz.

Cnsd1_medium

Arizona disguises their pass rushers this time.

Cnsd2_medium

Facing what appears to be Cover 3, as Newton finishes his drop, he has a clean pocket. TE Greg Olsen, facing man coverage from a LB, has already gained separation.

Cnsd3_medium

Just a second later, Steve Smith gains separation as he makes the break on his route, meanwhile, the window of opportunity for Olsen is shrinking. Newton clutches, but for some reason doesn't make the throw, instead holding onto the ball.

Cnsd4_medium

Newton hesitates, and roughly two seconds after finishing his drop, he has nowhere to safely deliver the ball. With the pocket crumbling under the blitz, Newton has to evade a couple of pass rushers before throwing the ball into the sideline.

Later in the fourth quarter, the pressure has mounted for Newton and the Panthers Offense.

Cnb1_medium

Facing another blitz from the Arizona LB's, Cam needs to make a quick decision with the football in order to prolong the drive.

Cnb2_medium

With the Cardinals in Cover 3, Newton has both Ginn and Lafell on underneath routes. Shortly, Steve Smith will make the cut on his corner route, also achieving ample separation.

Cnb3_medium

Late in the game, with six sacks already taken, and with his team in desperate need of some offensive production, I think Cam presses here. Newton hesitates, and just as bad, takes his eyes off of the play. Had he not hesitated, Cam could have delivered the ball to any of the three aforementioned WR's. Instead he spins out of the pocket with Daryl Washington in pursuit, unable to set his feet and make any throw before being sacked.

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