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The Hog Molly Report: Panthers at Lions

The Panthers continued their winning ways, notching a big road victory over the Detroit Lions to improve to 4-1. Despite the win, there are some issues up front that need to be addressed.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the Hog Molly Report, where winning in the trenches is all that matters. Before we begin, we open with the reciting of our usual motto:

In the spirit of Mr. Gettleman’s words (regardless of him having moved on), and the philosophy of building a team from the inside out, my goal will be to watch the hog mollies each game during the season, and give them a grade based on their performance. This week we will look at the galvanizing win over the Detroit Lions. The Panthers improved to 4-1 on the season, and are beaming with confidence as they eye a home game against the Philadelphia Eagles on a short week.

Offensive Hog Mollies

Yards per Carry: 1.3, season: 3.4 (T-27th, NFL)

Yards per Play: 5.9, season: 5.2 (14th, NFL)

Sacks allowed: 3, season: 15 (T-21st, NFL)

Third downs converted: 7 of 16 or 44%, season: 50% (2nd, NFL)

Rating: 3 out of 5 Porcine Protectors

3 out of 5 hogs

Despite three official sacks, it was a good day in pass protection for the offensive hog mollies, the running game however, was sputtering at best. First, let’s break down the sacks:

  1. 1st sack... Lions send a heavy blitz of six rushers, Carolina has six blockers in. But Tyler Larsen gets absolutely destroyed off the ball. I mean.. pummeled backward by Ngata. Opens up a hole right up the A gap for the linebacker who pushes him back even farther, Cam has nowhere to go... Haloti Ngata ends up with a well deserved sack.
  2. 2nd sack... Daryl Williams gets beat off the snap by Jeremiah Leadbetter, Cam steps up and right trying to escape, and would have... but... simultaneously, Tyler Larsen gets popped by Akeem Spence, his (Tyler’s) right arm flails backward and knocks the football out of Cam's hand into the turf. Newton falls on it. Spence gets the credit, Williams and Larsen share the blame.
  3. 3rd sack... protection was very good, as was the coverage downfield by the Lions. Cam can't squeak out, but he had some openings in a couple of places. Cam makes the wise decision not to throw it away and keep the clock moving. It’s possible he could have hit Ed Dickson wide open short, and he POSSIBLY breaks a tackle on his way to a game-sealing first down. Either way, this one is NOT on the OL.

So statistically three sacks, but really only two. I would say two to three pressures on top of that, a darn fine game in pass protection. The wheels were off in the run game though. Part of this is due to terribly predictable playcalling, especially with a lead late. Of 23 first down plays, we ran the ball on 14 of them, a 61% run rate. Eventually, the Lions just started sending an A gap blitz every first down, and it resulted in negative plays each time. This is the very definition of getting “Shula’d.”

However, even when that didn’t happen, Tyler Larsen was having a terrible time trying to stop Haloti Ngata from doing Ngata things. The powerful NT had lunch at Tyler’s expense several times, forcing blown plays. Tyler wasn’t the only one having issues getting push, even Trai Turner had some uncharacteristic rough spots. It’s a good thing Cam Newton is absolutely not safe to keep near flammable objects right now, or we lose this game bad. One other note, as good a day as Ed Dickson had as a receiver, he flubbed several opportunities trying to spring our backs while acting as a fullback. Alex Armah was in for just one play, to no effect.

Defensive Hog Mollies

Yards per Carry: 3.3, season: 4.0 (17th, NFL)

Yards per Play: 4.8, season: 4.8 (4th, NFL)

Sacks given: 6, season: 17 (T-3rd, NFL)

Third down stop %: 5 of 13 or 38%, season: 38% (10th, NFL)

Rating: 5 out of 5 Scowling Swine

5 out of 5 hogs

The Lions had some very early success running the football during FlagFest 2017, but it didn’t take long for the Panthers front to start thwarting their persistence. The Lions absolutely read the scouting report on how to beat us based on prior weeks, but our gap discipline combined with good old fashioned butt whippin’s by our DL changed that scene dramatically. This was a truly dominant game by Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei on the interior, both run and pass. Lots of interior pressure causing disruption to the timing of run plays, and often resulting in sacks on passing downs.

Speaking of sacks, it was a sack party! While Captain Munnerlyn and Shaq Thompson officially get two of the six sacks notched on the day, there is no doubt the interior pressure helped them significantly. Matthew Stafford had nowhere to step up, and them winning on the blitz was critical. This total would have been even higher had the officials cared to start calling holding on the Lions. Heck, there is a good chance the Panthers win 27-17 if Mario Addison gets justice for the arm-bar he was put in while getting after Stafford on his first comeback TD throw. It was a pathetic no-call. Couldn’t have been more obvious, happened right by the QB, and in full view of two officials.

A few side notes... Charles Johnson continues to be absent in the box scores, but he did get significant pressure this week on bull rushes, just never a sack. Kyle Love was again effective on the interior. Bryan Cox made no impact in limited snaps, and i saw significant improvement from Mario Addison this week in defending the run.

Honorary Hog Molly: Kelvin Benjamin

Stats: 4 receptions, 58 yards, 1 TD

Rating: 5 out of 5 Squeaky Hog Flies

5 out of 5 hogs

Kelvin Benjamin is a slam dunk fiver this week. Two monster plays... possibly the greatest throw and catch in the history of Cam Newton for his touchdown, and then hooking up with Cam again to ice the game on the final play. Both he and Devin Funchess continue to impress, as does Ed Dickson as a receiver.

Hog Molly of the Week: Kawann Short

Kawann Short was a terror all day, and so was his draft-mate Star Lotulelei. In the end, KK was the man standing with two sacks and a forced fumble recovered by Thomas Davis. It could have been even better for KK, as he was also the victim of a lot of uncalled holding, which the Lions pretty much decided to do on every play once Stafford went down for the third time. I guess the zebras felt we didn’t need the help. Middle disruption is absolutely key for any defense, no matter if you’re talking run or pass, but especially if you’re sending outside linebackers and/or corners on a blitz, something we did frequently. Wilks felt comfortable calling these risk-reward plays because of the consistent winning we did in the middle. That credit goes to Stahhh and Shahhhht, the famous Gettleman double dip.