Trench warfare holds the key to Carolina Panthers win in Week 17

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Wilks
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Wilks /

Trench warfare will once again play a leading role in any success that comes the Carolina Panthers’ way in Week 17 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

One of the hallmarks behind what’s becoming a sensational turnaround for the Carolina Panthers in 2022 centers around physical football in the trenches. Steve Wilks‘ old-school ethos is rubbing off well on his players, with growing calls from within the locker room for team owner David Tepper to remove the interim tag once the campaign concludes.

The Panthers are returning to the formula that made them so successful in the mid-2010s. This method was lost under Matt Rhule, who came in with delusions of grandeur and seemed incapable of adapting to the NFL and leading grown men into battle.

Wilks has no such problems. Everyone is believing once again and Sunday’s dominant triumph over the Detroit Lions built further momentum ahead of their potential NFC South title decider at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17.

Tampa Bay remains in the ascendancy and needs one more win to clinch arguably the league’s poorest division. These are also the situations where legendary quarterback Tom Brady thrives despite showing signs of regression throughout the campaign.

Carolina Panthers must stick to their current formula in Week 17

The cards might be stacked against Carolina, but they shouldn’t fear going to Raymond James Stadium. Especially after the number they put on the Buccaneers during Wilks’ first win at the helm earlier this season.

While the former Arizona Cardinals head coach didn’t play down the magnitude of their upcoming occasion, he made no secret of what the Panthers need to do in pursuit of another memorable victory on the road.

Win the trenches. Win the game.

"“We’ve got to make sure that we execute; we’ve got to stop the run. (Leonard) Fournette did a great job yesterday in getting his yardage in the run game. They did a tremendous job finding ways to get him the ball out on the perimeter. He’s definitely going to be a guy that we’ve got to make sure we try to contain.”"

Stopping the run is critical. But the ever-improving offensive line must also impose themselves on proceedings to allow D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard enough holes to control the clock.

This also makes things easier for Sam Darnold, who’s in the midst of a career renaissance and could earn a new deal from the Panthers if things continue in a similar manner over their final two regular season games.

The Buccaneers haven’t set the world on fire this season, but any team led by Brady needs to be respected. And there is enough evidence to suggest they’ll be more than up for this particular challenge in front of their home fans.

Wilks knows everything starts up front. Building momentum from the inside out is Carolina’s recipe for success right now, which won’t go unnoticed by the Buccaneers during their own preparations for the clash.

Such an opportunity didn’t look possible for the Panthers after their 1-5 start and Rhule’s firing. There’s a lack of big-game experience and Jaycee Horn’s injury is a bitter blow, but Carolina has nothing to lose with the pressure all on Brady to retain his postseason streak.

If the Panthers can build a strong foundation in the trenches, the rest should follow. Something that would be another feather in Wilks’ cap in pursuit of leading Carolina long-term.

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