It's never fun watching a Panthers' loss three times -- but it does give you a full picture of exactly where the team went right and wrong. Today we take a look at two key plays that helped contribute to Carolina's loss, as well as some overall observations on why things went wrong.
Better on review
DeAngelo Williams played a much better game than I initially thought. It was unfair to put much of his success on the offensive line, and in review it's impressive how much he was able to do with so little help on the right side. Williams was assisted by excellent ancillary play from Mike Tolbert, Greg Olsen, Ben Hartsock and Richie Brockel -- but that's no substitution for good in-line blocking. Chris Scott was better at right guard than left, but still failed throughout the day, while Byron Bell couldn't hold his edge blocks.
Williams saw holes extremely well and was patient in the backfield as he allowed the fullbacks and tight ends to lead block for him. He played a very good game, fumbles aside.
Brandon LaFell has been chided by fans in the postmortem and no player on the offense deserves it less. LaFell was routinely getting separation and finding himself open. In watching every pass play there were three occasions he was wide open for the deep pass and overlooked, with several intermediate opportunities falling by the wayside.
Charles Godfrey has been critiqued for his position on the late Jermaine Kearse touchdown that sealed Seattle's victory. In review nothing could be further from the truth. Godfrey was sitting in Cover 1, standing at the far hash mark pre-snap, where two receivers were line up. He was on an island and did a stellar job to realize the play was in trouble as soon as Kearse got outside positioning on Josh Thomas. He broke for the sideline while Russell Wilson was still making his reads and did a great job just to catch up with the play.
Here's a photo illustrating how early Godfrey made his break on Kearse.
He's in no man's land. The real question is why the Panthers were running Cover 1.
Worse on review
Cam Newton wasn't as stellar as first and second watching suggests. The Panthers' quarterback finished with an excellent completion percentage and made some smart decisions, but this idea that he was "taking what the defense was giving him" is absolutely untrue.
Some of this is the offensive scheme's fault. The game plan was to target the Seahawks' linebackers by making Greg Olsen the first read. On paper this seems to make sense, but it became abundantly clear that Seattle's secondary was leaving open plays for receivers. Mike Shula didn't adjust, Newton kept targeting Olsen -- that's a huge reason why the Panthers lost.
I counted 10 occasions where Olsen was the primary read and oftentimes Newton was staring down the tight end. This is the most egregious example from Sunday.
Newton is making his drop and the free safety is already making a break towards Olsen as the quarterback is staring down the tight end. Ted Ginn is cutting back at the lower potion of the screen, and he would be a better read here. Brandon LaFell got free release in the slot and you'll see what happens.
The safety has completely committed to Olsen and LaFell is behind all the coverage running the skinny post. Newton locks on to Olsen and throws an incomplete pass into double coverage (a drop), while LaFell would have strolled into the end zone for an easy touchdown. All it would have taken was Newton looking off the safety and not forcing the pass to the tight end.
On final review
The blame still lies on the field as well as the sideline. The Carolina Panthers failed to execute a fundamentally flawed game plan that took the ball out of the hands of the team's weapons and turned the game into Newton-Olsen pitch-and-catch.
There's a lot Cam Newton should have done better and Mike Shula should have realized that the vaunted Seahawks' coverage wasn't quite as brilliant as it's cracked up to be. There were opportunities that were left on the field due to lack of adjustment, and both Newton and Shula need to evaluate the problems before facing Buffalo.