Breaking down the data: Buccaneers vs. Panthers

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Numbers and pictures from the Panthers victory over Tampa Bay

On a brief reprieve from what has been a strenuous portion of the schedule, the Panthers clobbered the Buccaneers, returning to the old formula of dismantling teams with losing records. Even with the final score sporting a three touchdown deficit, the Panthers, on the box score, did not follow the mold that carried them over San Francisco, New England, and others. Carolina was just 2/5 in the red zone, and completed less than 50% of their third downs (5/13).

The Numbers

After an unbalanced utilization of personnel groupings in the first half, Coach Shula was seemingly more judicious in the second half. It's not necessarily a matter of the overall run-pass ratio, which this week, at 34-31, was balanced, but rather how you get there. Don't get me wrong, It's not worth blowing out of proportion (Shula is out of control, rabble, rabble), but there is a subtle advantage to be gained from having a balanced use of personnel groups. Giving your opponents clearly identifiable tendencies affords them an edge post-snap. When your opponent knows that you pass the ball 75% of the time from 11 personnel, they're much less likely to be fooled by the play-action give.

Personnel Pass Run Total
11 14 9 23 (35%)
12 3 5 8 (12%)
21 11 7 18 (27%)
22 1 8 9 (14%)
13 1 1 2 (3%)
23 0 1 1 (2%)
14 0 1 1 (2%)
01 1 0 1 (2%)

The sole pass from 01 personnel was a shovel pass from Cam Newton to Brandon Lafell.

Personnel 1st half 2nd half
11 pass 9 5
11 run 4 5
12 pass 3 0
12 run 0 5
21 pass 8 3
21 run 4 3
22 pass 0 1
22 run 2 6
13 pass 1 0
13 run 1 0
23 pass 0 0
23 run 1 0
14 pass 0 0
14 run 1 0
01 pass 0 1
01 run 0 0

Predictably, the 22 personnel numbers were inflated during the fourth quarter as Carolina ran the clock out.

For whatever reason, the Panthers are reluctant to run read option plays against Tampa Bay. This week Carolina ran just four read option plays for a superb 33 yards, tied for the lowest amount of read option plays called this season with... Carolina's Week 8 tilt with the Buccaneers. Combined, the Panthers have called less read option plays in two games versus Tampa (8) than they did against Miami in Week 12 (11).

Tampa Bay did a solid job of trying to take advantage of Carolina's fronts, doing a lot of running against the six-man fronts of the Panthers nickel alignment, and passing against the Carolina 4-3. However the results were very hit or miss.

Front 1st half 2nd half Total
4-3 8 6 14
3-4 0 4 4
4-2-5 14 12 26

Front & Coverage 1st half 2nd half Total
4-3 Man 1 0 1
4-3 Zone 4 3 7
3-4 Man 0 0 0
3-4 Zone 0 1 1
4-2-5 Man 3 0 3
4-2-5 Zone 5 11 16

It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Bucs really aired it out, compelling Carolina to reply with zone coverage from the nickel.

The running game is a fragile beast; one infraction can undress an entire play. From the last drive of the game, Carolina runs Power from 22 personnel.

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RG Nate Chandler pulls to the strong side with FB Mike Tolbert the lead blocker for RB Kenjon Barner.

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Brandon Williams is responsible for down blocking the DE, however #50 has a good first step, and Williams is unable to gain any leverage, allowing the defender to penetrate into the backfield. Less than half a second into the play and trouble is already brewing.

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Chandler is forced to handle the DE, but the defender's penetration forces Barner inside.

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And the rookie runner is tackled after a one-yard gain.

The very next down Carolina calls the exact same play.

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Tampa's #57 sniffs the play out from the snap, but otherwise so far so good. The play has been well-blocked thus far. Now Chandler and Tolbert must make their blocks on the second level.

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Barner is able to outrun the LB, but in order to do so, he has to widen his path. Meanwhile, and more importantly, Chandler and Tolbert both fail to make solid blocks, with both Panthers only making glancing contact.

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As a result Barner is brought down by the DB's Tolbert and Chandler just 'blocked'.

In what could be a weekly segment, we'll bask in DT Star Lotulelei's greatness. Star made a tremendous flash play when he threw RT Demar Dotson to the turf, hurrying Mike Glennon into an interception. Star's tremendous physical gifts allow him to make many awe inspiring plays, however, here it's his saavy which dominates.

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Tampa Bay's first offensive play of the game, the Buccaneers run an inside zone play. Tampa opts to bypass Star, having the LG move straight to the second level for Luke Kuechly. This leaves TE Tim Wright to cut block Star on a wham block.

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Left unblocked, where many DT's would have followed their initial instinct and barreled toward the ball, Star pauses and accounts for the incoming blocker.

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Star lets Wright fall to the grass before moving forward. Had he simply followed the ball, the cut block may have tripped him up. Instead he now has an unimpeded lane to the running back.

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Lotulelei is able to tackle RB Bobby Rainey after a one-yard gain.

Ever since the defensive coaching staff unleashed it, I've been wary of the half Cover 3 half man coverage the Panthers have employed every so often.

Last Week versus Miami, in this coverage, Captain Munnerlyn was burned by Mike Wallace on a 9-route, left in man coverage versus Wallace, with no safety help overtop. This week it was Vincent Jackson beating Drayton Florence.

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Only a shoe-string tackle by Florence prevents the touchdown.

As we push through December, the holiday season nears, particularly Festivus. In honor of Festivus, we have Captain Munnerlyn completing a 'Feat of Strength'.

Cm1_medium

Late in the third quarter DC Sean McDermott shows a unique blitz look, with Kuechly, Munnerlyn, and Greg Hardy all pressuring the Left Tackle, Donald Penn. The blitz will have Captain (5'8" 195 lbs.) rushing the edge, where he will meet Penn, who is listed at 6'5 340 lbs. per NFL.com. That gives him nine inches of height, and nearly 150 pounds on Munnerlyn.

Cm2_medium

Munnerlyn does the only sensible thing, and bull rushes Penn. With the advantage in pad level and hand placement, as well as momentum, something remarkable happens.

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It's tough to see via still images, Munnerlyn actually knocks Penn off his feet, if only a couple of inches and for a second. The force of the contact jars Munnerlyn back.

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It had no real bearing on the play, but Captain Munnerlyn brought a 340 lbs. man off his feet. You might say, a Festivus miracle. Or physics/good technique.

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