The last time the Carolina Panthers started a season 2-0, they went to the Super Bowl. Not that last week’s thrilling victory didn’t already stir memories of that 2003 season.
In order to reach the mark of 2-0 this team will have to accomplish a few things to reach this goal of being undefeated after two weeks.
Stop the run. How simple this sounds but how difficult. Last week, Ladainian Tomlinson managed 97 yards against the Panthers defense. The first half was a success against LT and for a while it appeared that the best running back in football was going to struggle to reach 60 yards. He got it going in the second half. Still the Panthers pulled out the win.
Against the Bears, it will be even more important. Call me crazy but the Chargers have a better passing game than the Bears. If you shut down the running game and force Kyle Orton to throw more than he would like, you increase your chances of winning by at least a factor of 10. Chicago wants to throw 15 to 20 times a game not 30 to 40. Hold them to 100 or fewer yards rushing as a team and you have a better than average chance of pulling out the victory.
Run the ball. The flip side of the above. Make DeAngelo Williams and Jonthan Stewart the stars of the game. Use that new muscle you assembled over the offseason along the offensive line. Then use it again, and again, and again.
For Carolina, the best case scenario is to run the ball 35 times or better in this game. Anything in that neighborhood and things are looking good. Sure, Jake Delhomme can still fling it, but it’s best to take the pressure off of him by pounding the rock between the tackles.
Think six. In the read zone last week, the Panthers simply didn’t look that great. Maybe it was because they didn’t run the ball enough inside the 20. Maybe it was because they were without Steve Smith. Whatever it was, it kept them from putting the ball in the end zone three times once they reached this most crucial piece of real estate.
They can’t do that again. Chicago has a physical bunch on defense and anytime you get a scoring opportunity, you want to take advantage of it. There’s nothing wrong with a field goal but touchdowns are better. At least they were the last time I checked my math.
Hit the freaking QB. I said this on the podcast and I’ll say it again – Julius Peppers is a pass rusher not a cornerback or a linebacker. I stopped counting the number of times that Pepp was dropped off the line of scrimmage into the short zone last week after about a quarter. Yo, Trgovac, Julius Peppers is the ONLY pure pass rusher you have. Use him!!
It also helps if Lewis and Kemo can get a good push up front allowing Beason, Diggs and Thomas to come swooping in to get a shot at the signal caller too. However you do it, put Orton on the ground often. He can talk about how he was “the man” at Purdue and that he had to wait his time in Chicago if he wants to. At Bank of America Stadium on Sunday he needs to be “the man picking himself up off the turf.”
Prove Moose Right. So Muhsin Muhammad said something to the effect that Chicago was where receivers go to die. So what? Did it hurt their poor little feelings up there in the Windy City? Poor little Bears! Somebody rock them to sleep. Be sure to warm their milk enough. Please!
Name the last good quarterback in Chicago. Quick. Can’t do it, can you? That’s part of the problem up there. And Moose was right. Not wrong. He was right.
Would he have had six catches last week with the Bears? Nope! He did with Carolina. He should have again this week. With Smitty still sitting at home playing XBox games and Wii, Moose will have to be the main target. Get him the ball.
We found a great target last week in Dante Rosario so the defense will try to shut him down. They might also be on a head hunting mission against Muhsin but we have to show them who has the goods and it ain’t them. It’s Moose. Get the man the ball early and often. Maybe that’ll shut ‘em up.