Sep 16, 2012; Chaflotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Mike Tolbert (35) scores a touchdown in the second quarter and celebrates with guard Geoff Hangartner (63) and tackle Byron Bell (77) at Bank of America Stadium . Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USPresswire

Panthers' Running Game the Key to Victory Over Saints

Cam Newton was once again the Panthers’ leading rusher. Last week, he had 5 yards rushing. This week? 71.

DeAngelo Williams ran for 69 yards, giving him 68 for the season. Yes, that’s how bad it was last week.

Jonathan Stewart, injured and on the sidelines last week, got 51 on 11 carries this week to go with his 17 yard scoring catch.

What a difference 1-1 is from 0-2.

The two Carolina games thus far were night and day in nearly every respect. I think that the main difference wound up being that the Panthers’ Offenisive Coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, remembered what he’d forgotten in week one.

Aug 17, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) runs the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

All those highly-compensated running backs they have. He actually used them.

And guess what? All those highly-compensated running backs delivered.

All 4 backs scored a touchdown (with Stewart on the reception) as the Panthers rolled up over 200 yards on the ground.

It’s something I almost envisioned last week when I wrote about the balance the Panthers needed to bring back to the offense. While you never can fully feel safe against Drew Brees, I just got the feeling after the interception/TD by Charles Godfrey that it was our day.

One other thing I had noticed during the game was each series seemed to feature a different RB, with Tolber being featured once or twice for part of a drive. Everyone was contributing, and that’s reflected in the statistics. It used to be rare indeed when a team ran for over 200 yards without a hundred-yard rusher, but get used to it on this team.

After two games and a split result from two gameplans, it’s quite obvious the Panthers need to keep on with the ground attack each week. While the running game doesn’t always pay off in the beginning, it takes more of a cumulative toll on a defense than passing does. Defenses just seem a step slower in the fourth quarter if you’ve been running the ball. It does wear them down.

Passing is largely a game of hot potato/keep away. Keep away from the ball, keep the defenders away from the QB. Push, roll, slide.

Running is largely a game of a streetfight. Maul, haul, push, shove. Large men moving other large men out of the way by force. No “incompletions” to just stop the action. You beat the ball down the field with brute force, angles, tricks…it’s ugly. That’s why it works.

When you’ve got, well, four highly-compensated backs, in Newton’s case, it’s “his style” to run a little. Use that, but be smart and pick your fights when you do use him that way.

With 3 guys having 10-15 carries a game with a “dash” of the large Mike Tolbert thrown in, you keep your guys fresher and less beaten-up at the end of the game…and the season. I’m thinking a “perfect” rest of the season offensively would have the Panthers pushing over 2,000 yards rushing as a team without anyone having a thousand-yard season…but several in the 600-900 range including Cam Newton.

The one lingering concern I had during the game never materialized; regarding depth and fatigue on the Panthers’ defensive line due to the illness that has been going around. The pass rush was pressuring Brees even more in the 4th quarter than they were in the first. By the end, it almost seemed like Brees gave up and threw it to Beason out of a day’s full of frustration.

Of course, he didn’t mean to throw it to him. He probably just never saw him.

It just wasn’t Drew Brees’ day.

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