The offensive line is holding this offense back
Many will point the blame at Cam Newton for this offense’s struggles and he obviously shares some of the blame. Newton had one of the worst games of his career last night finishing with this stat line: 10 of 28 for 151 yards, one rushing touchdown and two turnovers.
The biggest issue with this offense, as far as I am concerned, is this team’s offensive line. Last night they were picked apart by the New Orleans Saints. Newton was sacked four times; two of them came on the Panthers’ final two plays on offense. Even Ryan Kalil is not safe from the blame when he was blown into the back field on Cam Newton’s run in the red zone at the start of the fourth quarter.
This group was put into a tough position and had to start two undrafted rookie linemen on the left side (David Foucault and Andrew Norwell). The last two Newton sacks came from the left side where Foucault and Norwell were playing. This issue is not something new though as the Panthers offensive line has struggled all season.
The Panthers are now in a stretch of 10 days between last night’s game and their Monday night match-up with the Eagles. This is a perfect time to move players around, try different combinations along the offensive line and hopefully come up with a much stronger starting five.
Where is Greg Olsen?
One game is a fluke, two games is the start of a trend. Through the first seven games of the season Olsen averaged 8.4 targets, 5.8 receptions and 70 yards per game and caught five touchdowns over this stretch.
The last two games, Olsen has seen his numbers drop to 3.5 targets, 2 receptions and 23 yards per game. This is surprising considering Olsen is one of the two top receiving targets and this offense is completely different when he is involved. He creates mismatches for defense and takes some of the attention off rookie Kelvin Benjamin.
The Panthers defense has one strong quarter
The Carolina Panthers defense came out very strong to start the game. They were physical, forced turnovers and kept Drew Brees in check for the most part. In the first quarter, they held the Saints scoreless and 121 yards of offense. Then the flood gates opened.
Over the final three quarters, the Saints put up 28 points and 301 yards of total offense. Surprisingly though it was not Drew Brees who was the main guy last night but running back Mark Ingram. The Saints running back ran the ball 30 times, gained 100 yards and scored twice. To put this number in perspective, Drew Brees only threw the ball 34 times. The Saints running back only had four less touches than the Saints All-Pro quarterback.
The Panthers defense did do a few good things. They were able to sack Brees four times and did force two turnovers, but the Panthers were not able to turn them into points. The breaking point for this defense seemed to come at the end of the first half when they gave up 14 points in the final three minutes. After that stretch, they looked flat and could not recover.
Similar to the offensive line, the Panthers should move players in and out of the lineup until they find 11 players who can get this defense back to playing like they did last year.