Since Mike Nugent whiffed on a field goal to give Carolina a virtual mercy-tie, the Panthers have put up 17 points against the Packers, nine in a close loss to the Seahawks, and a lifeless 10 against the Saints. All, as you expected, were defeats. The Panthers offense has been hamstrung by poor quarterback play, a merry-go-round of running back ineffectiveness, and just plain being overwhelmed by opposing pass rushes.
When 11 different players have taken a handoff over nine games, and seven of them had carried the rock nine or more times, it speaks to inconsistency among the offense. Making matters worse, no running back has played in more than six games, with two regulars missing six out of nine games. The offense has no personality, let alone some secret identity beneath Super-Cam's street clothes.
Newton's last three games: 57.99 passer rating, 48.15 completion percentage, one touchdown, three interceptions. The media-promoted superhero that led fourth quarter surges is nowhere to be found, getting knocked around behind a porous offensive line, perhaps barely recognizing the third-string wonders he's handing the ball off to. Even Newton barely averages four and a half yards a run this season, far below his mighty norm.
KEY STAT: Under pressure, Newton is only completing 41 percent of his throws, while conceding a sack once every five pressures.
For a once-proud running game riddled with injuries, Stewart is about as good as it gets these days. Stewart missed three games in September and October with a sprsained knee, and has only rushed for 50+ yards twice in six games, but his 3.98 yards a run are best among the team's backs. Pitiful, yes, but the last two weeks have seen him run for 5.21 yards on 24 carries. It's a start.
KEY STAT: Stewart averages 2.94 yards after contact, tied for 11th most among all running backs.
While gifted rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin plays Jekyll-and-Hyde between dynamic playmaking and costly drops, veteran tight end Olsen takes root as the offense's most reliable weapon. Few tight ends are up there with Olsen's 539 yards on the year, which go with five touchdowns. As an effective run-blocker, Olsen shoulders much of the offensive load. As one of the few playmakers to go in all nine games, he's had to.
KEY STAT: After eight catches for 105 yards in Green Bay, Olsen hauled in just four grabs for 46 yards and no touchdowns in the last two games.
Four-time Pro Bowl center has been a mixed bag himself this season, while carrying a line berift with injuries and poor play. Kalil has been more good than bad as a run-blocker, making the middle of the line the most fertile ground for jump-starting the ground game. The likes of Byron Bell and Nate Chandler have been rotund dumpster fires in pass protection, but Kalil isn't perfect, conceding eight pressures in nine games. He's still the best the line has, by a mile and a half.
KEY STAT: Playing in all nine games, Kalil shows remarkable discipline by having not been penalized once.
Take away Sunday's pick-six from Foles' hand, and the defense is only allowing 12.67 PPG over the last three games (15 PPG otherwise). Ever since Philadelphia let the Rams back into that October 5 outing, the defense has worked harder to clamp down with more sacks, more incompletions, and more punts. In the last three games, opponents have only completed 46 of 92 passes, a mere 50 percent.
Not giving up the big play over the top cinches the defense's capability of shutting down opposing offenses. The Eagles offense doing their part not to turn the ball over helps as well. With DeMeco Ryans out for the year, we'll see how the picture changes, but in general, this is a tough defensive group that is doing more than their share to win.
The second-year nose tackle hasn't made much of a splash as a pass rusher (two sacks in 16 career starts), but his run-stopping abilities in the middle improve with every game. Logan mostly held his own against a world-class back in Arian Foster, making three stops behind the line. Logan has not missed a tackle since September 28, and finds himself counted on more to anchor the team's solid run defense the way he has.
KEY STAT: In four games this season, Logan has recorded at least three run stops, peaking with four against both the Colts and Redskins.
After being worked back in sparingly against the Cardinals, Kendricks played 62 of 63 snaps against Texans, recording six run-stops behind the line, as well as a sack and a forced fumble. That explosiveness and steady hand will need to be handy with Ryans out for the season, especially since Kendricks can be a tad inconsistent against the run once the back makes it past the line of scrimmage.
KEY STAT: Quarterbacks have thrown 11 passes Kendricks way, completing nine, but for only 40 yards.
Fletcher's key play Sunday was knocking a near-completion away from Andre Johnson, when the veteran receiver looked to have it firmly in his mitts. This is the Fletcher that the Eagles need, not the soft-cushion, hesitate-on-the-screen Fletcher that has given up too many big plays. When Fletcher is physical and confident, he's one of the best defenders on the field. Consistency, however, is his weakness.
KEY STAT: With Ryans out, Fletcher has another area to come in handy, as he leads all team corners in run-stops with four.
Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used to write this story.
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