The Carolina Panthers offense did not have a good showing in the season opener. They had moments, especially earlier on in the game, but they fell apart in the second half and only mustered 10 points against a relatively weak Atlanta Falcons defense. Turnovers were a big part of that, but aside from that, the Panthers still only averaged 3.9 yards per play, the seventh worst mark in the league in Week 1.
Things won’t get any easier in Week 2. The New Orleans Saints come to town, and many believe they’ll end up having one of the league’s more stout defenses this season. They made good on those expectations in Week 1, limiting the Titans to 15 points (and zero touchdowns) while picking off Ryan Tannehill three times.
The Panthers do have the benefit of being at home this week, and perhaps the friendly confines of Bank of America Stadium will create a more comfortable atmosphere for the offense. Here are a few keys that will determine the success of the Panthers offense on the big stage.
- Can Bryce Young push the ball down the field? The Panthers offense was very condensed in Week 1. All 20 of Young’s completions were within 12 yards of the line of scrimmage. On passes longer than that, he was 0-for-7 with two interceptions in almost the exact same spot. He’s going to continue to find it difficult to complete passes in the middle of the field if the offense isn’t threatening the safeties over the top. The Saints didn’t do a great job getting after Ryan Tannehill, so Young should have a bit more time to push the ball down the field.
- Continue to utilize the backs and tight ends in the passing game. Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore is one of the best players in the league at his position, and he already notched his first interception of the season. The Panthers dearth of receiving talent is going to struggle to get consistent separation on the outside (in spite of what I said in the first key), so it’s important that the Panthers keep Hayden Hurst and Miles Sanders involved as receivers. Derrick Henry carved up the Saints defense with a 46-yard reception on a screen pass. Let’s see if Miles Sanders can do the same.
- Stress the Saints edges in the run game. Henry had a lot of his success running off the guards and tackles against this Saints defense. Sanders’ elusiveness is best used in the open field, and the Panthers can take advantage of that against this Saints team.
The Saints defense is stingy. It’s a tough test for the Panthers offense in their home opener. Hopefully the Monday Night Football vibes energize the team to a better offensive showing and their first win of the season.