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Breaking down the data: Giants vs. Panthers

Touchdowns and three-and outs; the good kinds.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Completely changing paces, the Panthers defense went from facing Buffalo's no-huddle, read-option infused offense, to New York's measured, conventional attack. Paling in comparison to Carolina's one sack against EJ Manuel and the Bills, the Panthers front seven produced seven sacks last Sunday --six coming in the first 17 minutes of the game. And without a viable running game, or even a mediocre run game, the Giants were forced to keep returning to the air as the deficit grew. The immense amount of pressure forced upon QB Eli Manning completely changed the game, preventing the Super Bowl QB from carving up the Panthers patchwork secondary, featuring two rookie undrafted free agents.

Not the Giants pass rush of years past, the Panthers were able to effectively shield QB Cam Newton from the New York front seven, who incorporated elements from the game plans of both Buffalo and Seattle. Bucking last week's trend Carolina was able to capitalize on their possessions, finishing 3-3 in red zone touchdowns.

The Numbers

Offensively the Panthers ran a very balanced attack, even as they turned to the ground game, killing the clock in the fourth quarter.

Personnel Runs Passes Total
11 8 14 23 (31%)
12 19 4 23 (31%)
21 10 11 21 (28%)
22 1 2 3 (4%)
31 2 0 2 (3%)
23 1 0 1 (1%)
13 1 0 1 (1%)

Much of the running from both 12 and 21 personnel came in garbage time.

Debuting for the 2013 season, Carolina ran two plays from 31 personnel, both of which were triple option runs, gaining a total of 24 yards. I would expect to see more 31 personnel in the coming weeks; selling the run this week, we'll probably see a few passes from the inverted bone.

Personnel 1st half 2nd half
11 pass 13 1
11 run 5 2
12 pass 2 2
12 run 4 15
21 pass 9 3
21 run 2 7
31 pass 0 0
31 run 1 1
22 pass 0 0
22 run 1 2
23 pass 0 0
23 run 1 0
13 pass 0 0
13 run 1 0

The read option plays had another substandard week: nine rushes for a total of 39-yards (4.3 YPC). Remove the two triple option runs, and we are left with seven attempts for 15-yards.

In a lot post-game analyses there is the thought that the coaching staff finally 'let Cam be Cam'. I'm not entirely sure where the sentiment came from. The Panthers ran five less read option plays than they did against Buffalo. Was it the three quarterback draws, one of which was for a touchdown? Newton ran one quarterback draw inside the red zone last week. The scrambles? Cam didn't scramble last week. But he did twice against the Bills. We didn't see more deep passing, or a different depth of route concepts. We did see a QB with an operable pocket. Cam was sacked six times against Buffalo; pressured and hurried countless more. Against the Giants, Newton was only sacked once, on the first drive after a Greg Olsen missed block. With more time in the pocket, Newton looked like a better quarterback and the offense was able to score touchdowns. The Seahawks have a fantastic secondary. The Bills have a fearsome pass rush (re: Mario Williams). The Giants don't have either.


Switching it up this week, I only charted coverages on pass plays. There's a lot less guess-work involved, and the data is more relevant.

Front 1st half 2nd half Total
4-3 9 5 14 (28%)
3-4 2 1 3 (6%)
4-2-5 12 19 31 (62%)
3-3-5 1 1 2 (4%)

Front Man coverage Zone coverage
4-3 1 6
3-4 0 2
4-2-5 6 20
3-3-5 0 1

Trying to make up points on the scoreboard, and to keep their best personnel on the field, the Giants played a lot of 11 personnel, requiring the Panthers to respond in their nickel package. A testament to the talent coming off of the bench, the Panthers pass rushed never ceased to harry the Giants passers, with Wes Horton (the third UDFA) and Mario Addison playing key downs throughout the game, as the defensive coaching staff was able to seamlessly substitute pass rushers.

Another topic bandied about, here's a look at Cam Newton's early second quarter interception.


Brandon Lafell will run the deep out route, and against the New York Cover 3, serves as Cam Newton's primary read. The Giants run a zone blitz, dropping into the deep three coverage, while having two LB's blitz the interior of the Panthers offensive line.


Yes, Brandon Lafell runs a poor route. But no, I don't think it deserves very much, if any blame for the interception. CB Aaron Ross is reading Newton the whole way; he's going to break on this ball no matter what. Therefore the throw has to be near perfect.


In the pocket, one of the blitzing LB's comes free and is a fraction of a second away from sacking Newton. Already committed to throwing this pass, Newton is unable to step into his throw, which results in an 'arm throw'. In not stepping into the throw, the quarterback in unable to generate power through the torque of his hips, and thus relies exclusively on his arm strength to complete the throw. Not all bad, quarterbacks are often forced to make arm throws, as is the case here. And with an arm as talented as Newton's, more often than not Carolina is able to make plays that other teams simply can't.


From the point of release, to the receiver, Ross, the ball travels an approximate 30-yards linearly. Coming back to the ball isn't really an option on an out-route. The ball needed to be placed on Lafell's outside shoulder, away from the defender. As I mentioned in the comment threads, if Lafell does run a crisp route, and does generate separation, the odds are that he is in no position to stop Ross from waltzing into the end zone, which would have completely changed the momentum of the game, tying the score 7-7.

Defensively the Giants borrowed a lot of ideas from both the Bills and Seahawks, blitzing early and often against Newton and the Panthers offensive line, as in the play above.

Watching Newton there is often a sharp contrast in the speed at which he gets the ball out.


On this third-down and long, New York will again run a zone blitz, operating a Cover 3. At the bottom of the picture, Steve Smith will run a corner-route, while from the the slot, Lafell will run a crossing pattern.


Immediately, Newton locks onto Smith, who is burdened with the strong safety dropping into coverage, doubling the wide receiver. It should have been apparent right away that Smith was not going to gain separation on this play; the third-year player, Newton should have seen the strong safety drop onto Smith and looked elsewhere. Elsewhere like Brandon Lafell who garners good separation on his crossing route. With the blitz eating away at the protection scheme, Newton needs to make a quick decision. Instead he waits... spending nearly three seconds staring down Smith.


Newton does a good job of stepping up into the pocket and finally sees Lafell, delivering a perfectly placed strike. Although it is already too late; the strong safety previously smothering Smith has followed Newton's eyes to Lafell.


The safety levels a big hit on Lafell, jarring the ball loose. Not only did Newton place his WR in harm's way, but he took away any potential YAC by hesitating.

I suspect that this is a big coaching point for Shula & Dorsey: the next two plays Newton is very decisive with the football.


With an empty backfield, Newton has a zone beating route concept to his right, and a man beating concept to his left. Newton opts for the zone concept, even while he does have man coverage to the right.


Not even bothering with the three-step drop, Newton throws the ball to Olsen as the TE makes his break. Newton doesn't even spend a whole second with the ball in his hands. An aside, how awesome would it have been to see RB/FB Mike Tolbert catch this nine-route? Ross doesn't even cover him; the safety would have been the only defender with a chance at keeping Tolbert from the end zone. Mike Tolbert, 1 reception, 65-yards, 1 TD. Oh well.


Newton hits Olsen with a perfectly placed ball, allowing the TE to turn up field, picking up a gain of nine-yards.

Facing more blitzes, and with a shaky offensive line, it is imperative that Newton makes prompt decisions when reading coverages and going through his progressions.