The Carolina Panthers are battling more than the Denver Broncos this week, they are facing their former coach John Fox. Fox was the head coach of the Panthers from 2002-2010. He had limited success as coach at Carolina, even taking them to the Super Bowl in the magical 2003 season. Never did he have consecutive winning seasons and his coaching style has cost us these past two years. For whatever reason, Fox refused to use young players. That hurt us because it caused a lack of experienced depth on the roster. That is one reason why so many people were happy to see Fox go. He would not play the people we drafted. Just wanting to play the older or more experienced players. Enough about him, the on field concern is Peyton Manning. He and the Broncos offense are firing on all cylinders now. Manning is back to his Indianapolis Colts form. But instead of Harrison, Clark, or Wayne , he is throwing it to Thomas, Dressen, or Decker.The offense is not just limited to the passing game, McGahee and Mareno are a good 1-2 punch when running the ball and there defense is ranked in the top ten in several team categories. The Panthers can win this game, let’s take a look at some of the things they will have to do to make that happen.
When Carolina has the ball it is imperative that we run it, and run it successfully. Running the ball effectively will give us an advantage in 2 different ways. First, it will keep Peyton Manning on the sideline. When he is on the sideline he can’t hurt us. Secondly, it will keep us from being in many 3rd and long situations. This will be the biggest factor in the game I think. The more 3rd downs we are able to convert the more likely a Panthers win.
The offensive line will need to play their best game of the season for the Panthers to come out victorious. The line has had some bright spots in their play but most of the year has been an underwhelming performance. All be it there have been injuries that the line has had to contend with and that has affected continuity, but they have been capable of putting it together in spurts. This game will be their chance for redemption. Pass blocking is my main concern. Denver has 2 preeminent rushers in Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. Both are adroit at getting to the quarterback. Screens and Draws are are effective against heavy pass rushers. We should all be familiar with draw plays seeing how it was the #1 play for John Fox on 3rd and long. And God knows we faced many of them with the awful play calling that took place under Fox’s tenure. Even with effective run plays and good pass blocking, Manning will get on the field and here is what we need to do defensively when he does.
PRESSURE, PRESSURE, PRESSURE!!!!!! We have to get to Manning. Not only do we have to pressure him but we need to hit him, hit him often and get him on the ground. Manning is not mobile but he is shifty in the pocket. When getting pressure, Manning does a great job of feeling it and re-positioning himself in the pocket. We have been effective in applying pressure and getting to the quarterback in the last few weeks. If we are able to continue this trend then we can get Denver into 3rd and longs. In their loss to Houston they were held to 35% 3rd down conversion and in the loss against Atlanta they were held to just 33% 3rd down conversions. I think we if we can keep them in 3rd and long situations the more likely a Panther victory. Applying pressure will potentially put them in 3rd and long. So if Hardy, Johnson, and the Edwards brothers (not really brothers or related), continue to improve in their pass rush and the defense continues its climb up the defensive rankings we can win this game.
The Panthers are still looking for a win versus a quality opponent. They have had 2 good teams on the ropes (Chicago and Atlanta) but Carolina failed to seal the deal.This season has been widely considered unsuccessful. A win against the Denver Broncos and John Fox will help recover some of this teams dignity and confidence. This team really needs this win, more than just that, this organization and fanbase need this win.
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