The Carolina Panthers managed to pull off a surprising 31-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday. What’s even more surprising is how the Panthers’ offense managed to put up 31 points against the vaunted Vikings’ defense. Explosive run plays were a huge part of their offensive success, as they totaled 221 yards on 33 carries. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula deserves a lot of credit for a creative run game plan, and the players also deserve a lot of credit for executing their assignments.
The Panthers had two big runs that each went for over sixty yards against the Vikings’ stout run defense. The first big play in the run game occurred on the first offensive possession, on a third and one situation.
The Panthers come out in a 6-OL formation (read more about their use of 6-OL sets here) and Mike Shula designs the play so Greg Olsen is at left tackle, while Matt Kalil, Daryl Williams and Taylor Moton are all on the right side of the line.
Despite the heavier personnel set, the Vikings stay in their base defense. The Panthers call a Power O run, which features the entire line blocking down with pulling left guard Andrew Norwell as the lead blocker, and Ed Dickson as the fullback on the kickout block.
This isn’t just a simple handoff from under center, though. Notice how Cam Newton hands the ball off and then fakes the bootleg.
This holds the backside edge defenders, and also puts the free safety out of position.
The line does a fantastic job blocking up front, and Stewart has a massive run lane.
Stewart goes untouched for a 60 yard touchdown.
The second big run came on the Panthers final offensive drive. With the game tied at 24, the Panthers needed to march down the field for a potential game-winning field goal or touchdown.
Mike Shula dials up an inside zone read option out of a 3 TE set (13 personnel).
The Vikings defense run a scrape exchange, which is a common way to play the zone read option, by having the edge defender crash inside with the linebacker coming over the top to take out the quarterback.
However, the Panthers incorporate a wrinkle where the left tackle actually chips the edge defender, before moving to the second level to take out the scraping linebacker.
It results in a wide open run lane for Newton, who makes a fantastic cut in the open field against the free safety.
Newton is able to run for 62 yards before finally getting taken down at the eight yard line. The Panthers would go on to score the game-winning touchdown three plays later, on a Jonathan Stewart leap from the one yard line.
Like it or not, the Carolina Panthers’ offense is still built around running the football. If their run game struggles, so does the rest of the offense. Although they were one of the worst run-blocking teams in the league during the first half of the season, they’ve managed to significantly improve in the past month as they’ve gotten healthier. Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula is one of the most creative run game designers in the NFL, and with the offensive line finally healthy and playing at a high level again, I’m excited to see how the Panthers’ offense will execute down the stretch in the final three games of the season.
For more X’s and O’s, come visit our Film Room!
All images and GIFs courtesy of NFL.com