Post-mortem on the Carolina Panthers’ disastrous loss

Well, I was wrong. I thought Carolina’s balance on offense and defense would allow them to take Denver down.  In the event, the Denver defense was just too much.  I should have listened to that hunch that said: But remember when the mediocre New York Giants destroyed the mighty Patriots using their strong defensive line!  It was like watching that game again, only more so, because the Panthers looked completely shell-shocked from the first quarter on.

Cam Newton has been taking a lot of heat for not diving on a fumble with 4:10 left in the game that sealed the victory for the Broncos.  Personally, I think that was the least of Carolina’s problems. Even if he recovered, it was going to be 4th and 18 from the Carolina 15 yard line.  With the way they played, does anyone honestly think they were going to get that?

I knew Carolina was in trouble on their first drive of the game, when they faced 4th and 1 after three plays.  I said at the time on Twitter that they should go for it.

They opted to punt.  That was a mistake.  To win the Super Bowl, you have to play aggressively. Think of Sean Payton’s onside kick to start the second half when his Saints beat Indianapolis.

Going for it on 4th and 1 would have sent the message that they had confidence in their offensive line, and were going to play tough.  Punting made them look scared. Coach Ron Rivera is nicknamed “Riverboat Ron”, because he is supposedly so willing to take big risks and be aggressive.  Well, I wasn’t seeing it in this game.

Carolina’s best play was a scramble by Cam Newton.  They should have told him to forget about trying to pass and just start running down the field.  Actually, going forward I think all offenses facing a really strong defensive line should use the following strategy:

  • Spread the defense out with four wide receivers–that will at least keep the linebackers and defensive backs occupied.
  • Tell the tackles that since they are going to get beat, at least get beat to the outside, leaving more room in the center of the field.
  • If you have a running quarterback, tell him to run up the middle.
  • If your quarterback can’t run, use lots of draws and interior shovel passes to the running back. He can then go up the middle.
  • Put in the occasional wide receiver screen play.  That will keep them honest.

Would Carolina have won if they had done that?  I’m not sure.  Denver’s defense was mean; I’m not sure anything could have stopped them.  But I think they would have done better than they did.  I felt sorry for the Carolina defense–they played a great game too, but failed to score on any of their takeaways.

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