It has been awhile since the Panthers had a running back in the backfield that opposing defenses had to account for. Stewart started for the first time since Week 3 and rushed 13 times for 50 yards and caught one pass for 12 yards. He even had a strong run to start the fourth quarter that went for 18 yards, the longest run the Panthers have had since Week 3 against Detroit.
The Panthers offense needs a bruising running back like Stewart, especially with how poor the offensive line has played. A player like Stewart is powerful enough to break tackles and can turn what should be a negative play into something positive. Hopefully he can stay healthy the rest of the season to give this offense an extra boost. That is a big if considering he has played only 19 games since the start of the 2012 season.
The wide receiver out of Wofford is doing everything he can to get himself some more playing time. Bersin had the best game of his career with three receptions for 21 yards and his first career touchdown against Green Bay. The majority of those stats though did come in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter with most of the starters already out of the game.
However in the NFL it doesn’t necessarily matter when your number is called but rather if you produce when that time comes. Bersin has done just that and hopefully will start to see more playing time as the season goes on. A combination of him, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen down in the red zone would provide Cam Newton with three huge targets.
Speaking of Olsen, this guy seems to get better every week and continues to be the team’s MVP. Since his two reception, 30 yard performance against Baltimore he has averaged 6.6 receptions, 79.6 receiving yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game. This past week against the Packers, Olsen had his first 100-yard game of the season.
Olsen has been a steady and reliable option for Cam Newton and so far this year he ranks in the Top 15 in the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns among pass catchers (tight ends and wide receivers).
Unlike Bersin, Reaves was not able to seize his opportunity when his number was called. For a two week stretch with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart out, Reaves was the primary running back. In Week 4 and Week 5 Reaves rushed the ball a combined 23 times but was only able to pick up 61 yards.
Since those two games he has seen his touches drop from eight to none against the Packers in Week 7. This trend will probably continue as long as Stewart is healthy and when Williams returns from his injury.
The third year pro continues his up and down season after a strong game against Cincinnati; he followed it up with a lackluster performance against the Packers. According to Pro Football Focus, Chandler was responsible for two of the four sacks given up in Week 7 and two QB hurries. It should be no surprise that Chandler finished with the second worst pass blocking rating of -3.5 among Panthers’ offensive linemen.
There is no way to point to one player or position and say that is the problem with the defense. It has been a failure across the board that falls on the entire defense. Prior to Green Bay, the Panthers offense was able to score enough to mask the defenses’ efficiencies. This was not the case in Week 7.
It is really amazing how far this group has fallen off from last year, when they were one of the best in the league, to this year. In 2013, the Panthers gave up 30+ points in only one game compared to this season where they have given up 30+ points in four of their last five games.
It should come as no surprise that the defense ranks 29th in points allowed per game this year and 27th in total yards allowed per game. The team has too much talent on this defense to be near the bottom in these categories. Hopefully, this game against Green Bay was a wakeup call, like the Buffalo game in 2013 was, and they can get back to playing tough defense.