Breaking down the data: Panthers vs. Dolphins

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Thanksgiving! By far the worst game the Panthers have played since the Arizona tilt, Carolina was able to rally and defeat Miami, thanks to stout defensive play and a late touchdown drive. On defense the pattern held, as Miami was limited to less than thirty-yards rushing if you subtract Ryan Tannehill's scrambles, and only 25% of third-downs converted. Carolina also struggled with third-down conversions, having just six of 17 converted.

If not for a few choice plays, the Panthers dominated on defense. Unfortunately, those plays led to Miami points, i.e. Mike Wallace's two first half receptions. On offense Carolina was unable, for much of the game, to string together cogent drives. Even with Miami's disproportionate run-pass ratio, the Panthers only won the time of possession battle by 24 seconds.

The Numbers:

The last few weeks Carolina has drifted from the balanced run-pass ratios, overall, and within personnel groupings. Much of that has to do with the close nature of the games during the last couple of weeks, as well as the poor numbers from the running game. Last week, trailing for much of the game, Coach Shula called 42 pass plays and 24 run plays.

Personnel Runs Passes Total
11 7 27 34 (50%)
12 9 3 12 (18%)
21 4 9 13 (19%)
22 4 1 5 (7%)
23 2 0 2 (3%)
31 1 1 2 (3%)

In line with last year's play calling, when in doubt, 11 personnel. The division between run and pass within the personnel groups is as stark as it has ben all season. 11 \approx \!\, pass, 12 \approx \!\, run, 21 \approx \!\, pass, 22 and 23 \approx \!\, run. I'm sure the offensive coaching staff is looking to rebalance the offense in the coming weeks.

Personnel 1st half 2nd half
11 pass 14 13
11 run 2 5
12 pass 3 0
12 run 2 7
21 pass 3 6
21 run 3 1
22 pass 1 0
22 run 1 3
23 pass 0 1
23 run 0 1
31 pass 0 1
31 run 1 0

For the first time in weeks, the Panthers ran a play from 31 personnel, with the results being less than stellar; two plays for three total yards, a far cry from the 13-yards a play last year. Opponents aren't dropping a safety into the box anymore, nor are the linebackers falling for play-action, muddling any chance at a big play through the air.

The read option plays on the whole had a much better day, finishing with a season high 11 attempts for 58-yards. The high point came during the Panthers first touchdown drive of the second half, where Carolina caught Miami in the no-huddle, and burned them with the pin and pull outside zone read, running it three consecutive times for 30-yards, before Cam Newton would score from five-yards out on an inverted veer.

Somehow the Dolphins were even more unbalanced than the Panthers. Despite holding the lead for at least three quarters, Miami ran just 10 running plays to 48 pass plays. On four second half running plays, Miami had zero yards rushing. Even though Miami was having absolutely no success on the ground, by abandoning any pretense of the run, they allowed Carolina's pass rushers to focus exclusively on rushing the passer.

That being said, the Dolphins did do a fine job of mitigating the Panthers pass rush for much of the afternoon. Many of Ryan Tannehill's passes were out of his hands in two seconds or under.

Front 1st half 2nd half Total
4-3 5 6 11
3-4 2 1 3
4-2-5 17 24 41
3-3-5 0 1 1

Even though they weren't burned playing man coverage, the Panthers largely reserved man coverage for the red zone. By and large, Carolina stayed in Cover 2 and Cover 3, with brief interludes of mixed coverages.

Fronts & coverage 1st half 2nd half
4-3 Man 0 0
4-3 Zone 2 5
3-4 Man 0 0
3-4 Zone 1 1
4-2-5 Man 6 2
4-2-5 Zone 11 19
3-3-5 Man 0 0
3-3-5 Zone 0 1

Defensively, the Panthers did a much better job of tackling against Miami, and were much more disciplined in their gaps, that going for the front seven, as well as the secondary.

Gd1_medium

The Dolphins are running an inside zone play.

Gd2_medium

As RB Lamar Miller takes the handoff, everyone is occupying their gaps, including Kuechly and Davis.

Gd3_medium

The runner is forced to bounce the run outside.

Gd4_medium

In contrast to last week versus New England, the DB's, specifically Melvin White, aren't caught sneaking into the backfield, and stay home, tackling Miller for a two-yard gain.

The beautiful run stuffs for negative or zero yards come when one or more players make a fantastic individual play. That can't happen on every run. The paltry gains of two or three-yards usually occur when the entire defense works together to maintain gap discipline. Those are the plays which mark a top echelon defense.

Even still, Carolina was not without fault on defense, losing discipline on one play which gave Miami its sole touchdown.

Mtd1_medium

Here in the first quarter, the Dolphins run a play-action rollout play, with Mike Wallace running a nine-route. Carolina is in Cover 3; CB Captain Munnerlyn is on his own for this play.

Mtd2_medium

The crucial error on this play: DE Greg Hardy gets sucked into the play-action, following the RB, and losing contain on Tannehill. Meanwhile, Munnerlyn bites on Wallace's double move. Whereas Hardy's mistake was mental, Munnerlyn doesn't have the speed to catch up to Wallace after the WR gets behind him.

Mtd3_medium

Wallace had roughly five steps of separation on the CB. However, Tannehill doesn't bother to set his feet and make a mechanically sound throw, despite having the time to do so, and chucks the ball in the vicinity of Wallace, who comes back to the ball, and makes the catch for the TD.

If Hardy doesn't bite on the PA, Tannehill doesn't have the faculty to complete the deep throw. In the fourth quarter Miami would run the play again.

Par1_medium

The coverage is more or less the same, Cover 3 to left half of the field, while Drayton Florence is set to be matched up with Wallace in man coverage, again with no safety help overtop.

Par2_medium

As Tannehill completes the play-action, Hardy is not fooled, and stays home, forcing the QB's hand.

Par3_medium

With the DE bearing down, Tannehill is forced to complete an off-balanced throw to Charles Clay, the underneath route, which Thomas Davis defends for an incompletion. Also of note, Florence stays with Wallace, never letting the speedster get behind him, which compels the WR to cut off his route.

I'd say that Nate Chandler had his worst performance last Sunday versus the Dolphins. The young lineman was in the middle of a couple of miscommunications and committed a few mental errors of his own.

Nc1_medium

This play occurs on Carolina's second drive of the game, on a third-down and long. Here Chandler has help to his left in Ryan Kalil. Chandler cannot afford to be beaten to his right; on his left, should he fail, he has Kalil to corral the rusher.

Nc2_medium

At the snap DL Jared Odrick feigns an inside move; Chandler moves to respond.

Nc3_medium

Odrick begins to cross the face of Chandler. The RG has overcommitted to his left. This frame also demonstrates one of Chandler's technical flaws; his hands are too low. Practically hanging at his sides, Chandler's arms do him no good, and allow the DL to engage first with his hands. As a comparison, look at the hand/arm placement of LG Travelle Wharton and LT Jordan Gross: both have their arms coiled, and ready to punch.

Nc4_medium

The DL executes a swim move to disengage from Chandler who barely got a hand on him at all.

Nc5_medium

Odrick flies past Chandler for a free rush on Newton, flushing the QB out of the pocket, and forcing him to throw the ball away on third-down. Chandler had help in Ryan Kalil, but he didn't use it all, and got beaten badly by Odrick.

I know this was only his fourth game at guard, but Chandler played poorly. Longterm, I'm bullish on the young offensive lineman. In the short term, I'm most certainly bearish. Chandler is going to have to take his lumps as he learns the offense, and how to play offensive line. The question is whether the coaching staff is going to let them occur during games, or on the practice field. It looks like it's going to be on Sundays.

Filling in for the injured Charles Johnson, I thought Mario Addison had a great game. For the most part Addison went against Miami LT Bryant McKinnie.

Ma1_medium

All game Addison had been beating the veteran LT with stutter-step speed and rip moves.

Ma2_medium

At the snap Addison feigns outside, forcing McKinnie to slide out.

Ma3_medium

Addison then crosses the face of the LT and dips his shoulder towards McKinnie, minimizing the contact surface for the much larger offensive lineman, and completing a rip move to disengage.

Ma4_medium

Free from the OL, Addison accelerates and hits Tannehill as he is passing, causing the ball to harmlessly hit the grass.

I'm on Team Give Greg Hardy A Lot Of Money, but Addison has shown that he is a capable defensive end.

To cap this post, lets marinate on the play of the game, the Cam Newton-Steve Smith 4th-down and 10 conversion.

Ss1_medium

Miami is in a Cover 2/Cover 4 coverage, Smith runs a post route.

Ss2_medium

Under duress in the pocket, the pass arrives behind Smith. After doing a great job of adjusting to the throw, and making the reception, Smith coils his body. Sensing the coming hit from the safety, the WR positions his body to absorb the blow, shielding the catch, yards before the safety arrives.

Ss3_medium

With the position of his body, the hit only serves to straighten Smith, while the two DB's, both failing to wrap up the WR, fall to the field.

Ss4_medium

This enables Smith to pick up a few more yards after the catch.

High level stuff. None of the Panthers other pass catchers possess Smith's kinetic sense, and integration of hands and feet. Bravo Steve Smith.

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