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CSR Film Room: Norv Turner’s vertical attack was on full display against the Cardinals

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The Panthers attacked the Cardinals downfield in their 38-20 win last Sunday.

The biggest story to come out of the Carolina Panthers’ win against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday was the performance of Kyle Allen. Allen undoubtedly had a positive performance, but he was aided by the vertical passing component of Norv Turner’s offense.

I was disappointed with Turner during the first couple weeks due to his conservative play calls on passing downs, but it turns out that he was trying to play to the limitations of Cam Newton’s injury. The Panthers have plenty of talent at the skill positions to overcome deficient quarterback play, but they need a healthy quarterback to fully execute the offense.

Allen’s first test came on the first drive of the game. Turner calls an RPO that’s mainly designed to attack linebacker Jordan Hicks. Based on the determination if Hicks fills inside or outside, then Allen will quickly make a decision to hand it off or throw it to tight end Greg Olsen. Norv did a nice job of designing this RPO to attack the middle of the field due to the questionable linebacker talent of the Cardinals.

The half second of hesitation by the linebacker allows Olsen to gain leverage and Allen places the ball with good anticipation.

The next test for the offense came on a third down in the first quarter. The route concepts to the bottom of the screen aim to clear out the defenders to open room for Olsen to sit in the middle of the field. The safety blitz gives the Panthers a numerical advantage as Arizona isn’t quick enough to match.

Allen does another nice job of placing the ball with good anticipation. He doesn’t flinch with the pressure incoming from the defensive back. More importantly, Norv gives him a high value option.

My favorite play came on DJ Moore’s touchdown just before the half. Norv dialed up a “dagger concept” to attack the middle of the field. The Cardinals seem to be playing man coverage at the top of the screen, which favors Carolina as Curtis Samuel and Jarius Wright are able to have their defenders trail.

The congestion in the middle of the field caused confusion for the Cardinals secondary, but the pattern and timing of the routes were executed perfectly by the Panthers.

Allen attempted 10 play-action passes on Sunday, but none were better than this deep over route by Jarius Wright. Norv used deception for the double fake to Samuel and Christian McCaffrey, which caused Arizona’s linebackers to freeze in coverage. As a result, Wright is able to find himself wide open.

Finally, I want to highlight this play because of how dominant Greg Olsen was versus D.J. Swearinger. He gets matched up in man coverage, but uses a subtle push off to create separation and leverage on the defender. Olsen isn’t the same athlete, but he is still a smart route runner who understands how to create separation. Norv did a brilliant job of exploiting this matchup and creating high percentage throws for Allen.

The Panthers will trot Allen out against a much better defense in Houston this Sunday. Allen made all the throws and didn’t look out of place vs a poor Arizona defense, but he will get a much tougher test this week. However, it’s up to Norv to scheme a similar game plan so Allen can find high percentage throws and have the best chance to succeed.