New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers: A Look at the Stats


Each week, I’ve started taking long looks at the statistical match-ups of the Panthers and their opponents, and I can see a trend forming.

This may come as a shock, I know, but Carolina’s defense has been getting better and better as the season progresses. Don’t forget, the game is on Monday Night Football this week!



New England: (12) 361.1 yds/gm

Carolina: (21) 323.6 yds/gm


New England: (8) 129.1 yds/gm

Carolina: (10) 127.8 yds/gm


New England: (18) 232.0 yds/gm

Carolina: (29) 195.8 yds/gm


New England: (T-10) 26.0 pts/gm

Carolina: (18) 23.8 pts/gm



New England: (21) 361.0 yds/gam

Carolina: (2) 283.3 yds/gm


New England: (30) 128.2 yds/gm

Carolina: (2) 82.0 yds/gm


New England (12) 232.8 yd/gm

Carolina: (4) 201.3 yds/gm


New England: (6) 19.4 pts/gm

Carolina: (2) 12.8 pts/gm

Oct 6, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

After taking a good look at the two teams’ relative statistics, I stand by everything I said in my pre-game thoughts here, including the bit about Tom Brady being an on-field crybaby. Sorry to “offend” the sensibilities of some of their “know-it-all” fans, it has been no secret that Brady lobbies the officials for personal foul penalties more than anyone.

Doesn’t take a genius to know that if you’ve watched him over his career. Everything he does is to try to gain an advantage, just like any other player. He’s Tom Brady, he knows it, and he uses it for all he’s worth on game day – even when it comes to lobbying for, planting seeds, or “whining” or whatever you want to call it because it works.

Is it annoying? Heck, yeah. Do I blame him for doing it? Heck, no!

As I said last week, Bill Belichick likes to run more than is generally known. The stats bear this out as they edge the Panthers by a couple of yards a game…and the Panthers are a power-running team! They average 4.4 per carry to the Panthers’ 3.9, and at least a part of that is due to the fact that defenses know they’re facing Tom Brady.

Passing opens up the running game as much as vice-versa, and the statistics here would suggest that much. Stevan Ridley didn’t have a monster season last year because he’s an “elite” runner. He’s good at what he does but he’s no superstar.

What he does do, however, is carry the ball when they need tough yards and is very good at doing that. A 6th-place ranking in rushing can’t be attributed just to Brady – it’s his offensive line and his backs – a total “team effort.”

Carolina, meanwhile, has had numerous injuries and depth concerns on the interior of their offensive line all season once again. Teams come in looking to stop the run first and force Cam Newton into beating them through the air. They’re even somewhat successful, but the Panthers’ record and last week’s huge win over San Francisco have demonstrated they are just balanced enough to get the job done while the defense keeps them in the game.

Being 30th in the NFL against the run, the Patriots have been missing first Vince Wilfork, then Jerod Mayo in rapid succession. Keep in mind the Patriots use the 3-4 while the Panthers use the 4-3 on the defensive side. A nose tackle like Wilfork can influence the running game, but the nature of the beast is that linemen take on the blocks for the linebackers to make the plays in that scheme.

Mayo’s the guy missing that most hurts them for several reasons in particular, but the more all-encompassing reason is the nature of the relative positions. Great nose tackles don’t much matter on outside runs. It’s the linebackers that play sideline-to-sideline.

Sep 8, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy (76) before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

You won’t hear any Panthers complaining about Wilfork’s absence, however. The “Keep Pounding” theme should ring strongly against the Patriots defense while using Play-action passes on first down, something the Panthers have been doing some already this season, to get the passing game going.

As ANY team’s worst worry against the Patriots is going to be Tom Brady, the Panthers’ running game of endless tortuous running backs is going to be Belichick’s biggest concern coming into Charlotte.

Since statistically the Patriots are much more stout against the pass than the run, it’s a strength-on-weakness for Carolina’s offense.

It’s that passing game that is going to be the tightrope Rivera, Shula and the rest are going to have to walk.

Again – I think my pre-game look was pretty much on the mark, so click on the link “New England Patriots to test Carolina Panthers with Aerial Attack” for more details, but the fact that the Patriots are just coming off their bye week with extra time to prepare bothers me a bit.

I think the Panthers should, of course and as always, “Keep Pounding,” but they’re going to have to be throwing the ball when they CHOOSE to and try and stay out of a situation where they HAVE to.

The Patriots score a TD more a game than their opponents but last past two games for them have seen things change.

Their young WRs seem to be starting to catch on to things, and that is another frightening thought, considering the future Hall of Famer they have throwing them the ball.

However, the Patriots are going to have unique problems of their own.

Opening running lanes against the Panthers’ front-seven should prove a challenge, and they may have to resort to an even more “West Coast-like” offense than usual, with short passes to runners and with WR screens they love to call even more than usual. With the 4-3 and two big rookie tackles that have demonstrated themselves to be as-advertised and more, MLB Luke Kuechly should keep much of a running game under wraps with the assistance of fellow LB Thomas Davis.

That pair is as good as or better than ANY linebacker tandem in the NFL lately. It’s especially nice to see TD playing at his former high-level again, and it’s no coincidence he’s come on strong now that his third ACL injury has had time to fully heal, be played on, and hold up.

Stevan Ridley’s running is going to be the key to the Pats’ offense I think. Yes, they have Tom Terrific, but if they can’t run and have to resort to 40+ passes in this game, the vaunted Carolina pass-rush can (and will) pin its’ ears back and come after Brady.

Patriots’ game plan – Offense:

Mix up the run and the pass. Pass when you’re supposed to run; run when you’re supposed to pass. Use the bye week to coach-up the young WRs they have and add several wrinkles, but don’t overdo it. Let them get comfortable and consistent with a few new plays and use them at key times because the defense hasn’t seen it yet – not even on film. A lot is going to depend on how much action Shane Vereen can handle coming off injury.

Make Luke Kuechly prove he can cover All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski. If he can’t, keep targeting him and try to open the middle for the running game that way.

Patriots’ game plan – Defense:

Stop the run at all costs even if it means playing eight in the box. The Panthers are going to test CB Aqib Talib coming off injury and if he’s not in football shape yet, save him for obvious passing downs. Use zone defense to help protect Aqib Talib, who may not be back in game shape just yet as he recovers from a hip injury and keep one safety deep at all times to help cover the bombs the Panthers may try with Ted Ginn, Jr.

Newton hasn’t been running very much at all so unless he starts to, don’t “spy” him but drop into coverage. Minimize exposure to injuries in the secondary. Try and get early success on the right side of the line with the pass rush.

Carolina’s game plan – Offense:

Run the ball until the defense proves it can stop you. Throw a deep ball or two early in the game to loosen things up for the remainder. Lots of runs between the tackles to minimize lost yardage and take advantage of Patriots injuries there (Talib and SS Steve Gregory). Deep passes should also help open those deep-outs Newton throws.

CB Alphonso Dennard is out. Make Talib prove his hip is 100% in coverage. {Note: Talib is listed as questionable officially}. Try to pick on anyone “green.”

Carolina’s Game plan – Defense:

As usual, stop the run. Force Brady into the air; collapse the pocket up the middle so the immobile QB can’t step up and follow through. Play short-to-medium pass coverage in zone and let the ends close in on Brady before the longer passes can develop. Determine the weakest link on their O-line and use stunts or exotic blitzes to fool him as they won’t fool Brady. Use more man-press coverage to re-route the young New England WRs and disrupt the timing of the offense.

None of this should be particularly different, but I’m just spelling out what you might look for Monday night. With the Pats’ bye week, it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with – especially on offense.

I see the Panthers out-muscling the Patriots and winning 20-17 after having a 20-10 lead late.

Oh, by the way Pats’ fans…don’t even bring it around here that Brady is NOT “the league crybaby.” It’s common knowledge by now for goodness sakes!

Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye