Sunday was an ugly performance by the Carolina Panthers’ offense in their 23-17 loss to Washington. Costly first half turnovers and special teams errors set the tone early for the game. Carolina tried hard as their might to come out of the 17-point hole and match the biggest comeback in franchise history. With a minute left in the game on the Washington 16-yard line, Panthers were unable to utilize on downs with three straight incompletions. Right now, the Panthers sit at a 3-2 record and are winless on the road.
The Philadelphia Eagles have a few extra days of rest after a 31-13 win over the New York Giants last Thursday. Jim Schwartz-led defense made it difficult for Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning to connect. A forced interception by the Eagles set up an early touchdown and built momentum throughout the game. Despite what many want to say, Eagles’ have a strong defense. They’ve only allowed 11 touchdowns all season.
A road win won’t be easy for the Panthers. Here are four keys for Carolina’s offense to defeat Eagle’s defense:
Perfect third-down conversions and red zone game: If there were a game to get things clicking on third down and red zone efficiency this would be the one. Eagles currently have the third best 3rd down defense in the league. They also have the best red zone defense. Ball security has been an issue for the Panthers all season long on scoring drives. Head coach Ron Rivera needs to be more aggressive about scoring and leave the reserved play calling at home. Players also need to do better at handling the ball.
Involve CMC more: Despite a strong rushing defense, Eagles have a not-so intimidating passing defense. Christian McCaffrey should be a safety valve and involved more as a passing weapon. While McCaffrey has catches in bulk, his longest reception is only a measly 18 yards. Allowing CMC to catch the ball more only protects Cam Newton. Giving Newton a high percentage route to check down to eventually forces the Eagles to respect him underneath.
Use explosive plays: Philadelphia has allowed seven plays of at least 45 yards, tied with the Raiders for most in the NFL. Those seven plays have totaled 420 yards, 20% of all the yards the Eagles have given up this season. Explosive plays are the key to defeating an Eagles team that’s allowed the third-fewest first downs in the league. As stated above, leave the reserved play-calling at home. Newton has too many weapons that he can use down field.
Cover Cam: In their TNF win, Eagles’ front seven pounded the Giants. Eli Manning was hit in the backfield 13 times and sacked another four times. So far this season, Panthers’ offensive line has played much better than expected despite the many injuries and position changes. However, this will be a true test. Despite a strong rushing defense, Eagles have given up some plays to quarterbacks leaving the pocket. Nobody is more mobile than Newton.
Ball security and play calling will play a huge part if the Panthers are to defeat this NFC East foe. Eagles are arguably the best defense Carolina has faced yet.