The Carolina Panthers marched to a 2-0 record as they claimed victory over their hated rival, the New Orleans Saints, ending a few seasons of frustration in spectacular fashion. The team as a whole controlled the game, but compared to the defense, the offense still has more polishing to do. After a first half that was completely dominant, the offense stalled in the third quarter and cost the defense a shutout with a perplexing turnover. To have a chance at postseason glory, they’ll need to learn to play all four quarters and not let up.
Further improvement this week came in less missed opportunities in the red zone, but that’s not to say they didn’t exist. The Panthers continue to call plays inside the 20 that simply do not play to their strengths right now, namely jumbo sets with extra linemen and everyone pulled in tight. I fully understand you WANT the team to have the get up to win the battle for a single yard on the ground, but I’m here to tell you this isn’t how you do it. On third and goal at the one, it is much better to spread the field with wide receivers, make the defense account for those guys outside and then give yourself better numbers to fight with.
Outside of a highly questionable turnover in the third quarter, it was another good day for Sam Darnold, and it seems many of his doubters are starting to come around. It’s true that the Panthers have yet to face a stout defensive test, and it looks like they’ll have to wait another week as that “prove it” moment doesn't appear to be in the cards against the Houston Texans. This is another game where the Panthers weapons out wide and in the backfield should create a healthy scoring environment for the team. The sore spot continues to be the offensive line, where Dennis Daley will get the start at left guard this week, filling in for Pat Elflein. The hope is that Daley can focus on the guard position and improve instead of being shuffled around as needed.
We’re only two games into the season, so take these rankings with a grain of salt, but so far the Texans rank in the middle to lower middle of the league in most defensive categories, and are giving up a healthy 4.6 yards per carry. They also have not been getting a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, with a total of 10 pressures, 4 QBHits, and 3 sacks so far. Defensively, they have two DBs projected to be out for the game, Terrance Mitchell and Justin Reid, as well as linebacker Kamu Grugler-Hill.
In short, the Texans front is healthy, but so far have not been overly effective. The key player the Panthers line needs to lock down is DT Ross Blacklock, a second round pick by the Texans last year. The focus will once again be if the Panthers can do a good enough job against the opposition to let the receivers get open. As a group, the Panthers talent out wide with D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall Jr. will be a very tough cover for the Texans, especially without starters Mitchell and Reid. Add in McCaffrey out of the backfield, and you’re really cooking some boots.
On paper, the Panthers have an advantage over this Texans team on both sides of the ball, especially with QB Davis Mills making his first NFL start on national television. That said, this team has not had the best track record of success in primetime, and that will be one more thing they’ll look to put to bed as they continue to prove they’ve made a culture change. Good teams beat the teams they are supposed to beat and don’t leave any doubt. If the Panthers want to prove they belong atop the NFL with the other unbeatens, there are no weeks off. So far every Thursday game this season has been keeping people on the edge of their seats, let’s hope the Panthers make this one boring for everyone except their loyal fans.
What do you think Panthers fans? Sound off in the comments!