Secondary More than Josh Norman
The coverage of the Carolina Panthers secondary has been focused primarily on cornerback Josh Norman and for good reason as he is playing at an incredibly high level. Well, on Monday night, the rest of the Panthers' secondary showed just how good the rest of this group is.
The team's other three starting players in the secondary each had a turnover with Roman Harper recovering a fumble and Charles Tillman and Kurt Coleman picking off Andrew Luck. It was an impressive performance collectively for a majority of the game as the Colts' offense only mustered 57 passing yards and seven completions with about seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Luck was able to find some room towards the end of the game with two touchdown drives but this group did a much better locking down in overtime.
The Panthers' safeties had their best game of the season though as Harper finished second on the team in tackles with 12 and Coleman was third with eight, including two big tackles for a loss stopping the Colts' running plays before they could get started. The defense is going to need a similar performance next week with one of the best quarterback's in the league coming to town in Aaron Rodgers.
Drops Almost Cost Panthers' A Win
There will be a number of reasons for the Panthers' blowing the lead against the Colts. However, one of the underlying issues, and this has been an issue all year, is the Panthers' pass catchers continue to drop catchable balls at an incredible rate.
Tight end Greg Olsen had two that stood out during regulation, including one that he was wide open on off of a play action play. The biggest drop though came in overtime when Ted Ginn Jr. beat the Colts secondary down the sideline and had Newton drop a perfect pass right into his arms that he drops.
Now Newton didn't have a great game and was rather erratic with his passes against the Colts but he also had a number of passes that were thrown perfectly and it is the responsibility of the wide receiver to make the catch. The drops didn't cost them this game but if it is not corrected this could be the deciding factor in an outcome of a game in the future.
Offense Really Missed Starters on Offensive Line
One of the reasons for the Panthers struggle may lie in the interior of the offensive line. The Panthers knew entering this game that they were going to have a different starter at center with Ryan Kalil being made inactive due to an ankle injury and replaced with Fernando Velasco. The center position is arguably the most important along the offensive line as he is responsible for calling out changes in protection but more importantly has to get the ball the quarterback.
This quarterback center exchange is one that is sometimes taken for granted but almost cost the Panthers' the game. In the fourth quarter, with the offense inside the five yard line, Velasco and Newton fumbled the snap that was recovered by the Colts.
The team was also without left guard Andrew Norwell for almost the entire game after he suffered a leg injury at the end of the Panthers' first drive. He was not able to return and replaced intially by Chris Scott, who started for the remainder of the first half.
At the start of the second half though, he was replaced by Amini Silatolu but the results seemed to be the same. The Panthers' run game suffered significantly without Kalil and Norwell in the middle of this offensive line blocking for Jonathan Stewart and Newton. These two Panthers did combine for 121 rushing yards but these were hard earned and usually involved breaking a tackle or two on their way to picking up those yards.
2015 Carolina Panthers is a Resilient Group
This was a sloppy, ugly win for the Carolina Panthers. There is a laundry list of negatives that could be taken from this game from blowing a 17 point lead in the fourth quarter, to the drops, to the three turnovers. However, this group kept fighting, kept pounding to a victory.
The Panthers have shown time and time again this is a group that believes they can win games, whether they are down in the fourth quarter like in Seattle, or blow a big lead and go into overtime. This is a testament to the leaders in the locker room, along with the coaching staff.
Last year, the Panthers suffered through what could have been a disasterous losing streak but found a way to win the division. That mentality was on full effect Monday night and should benefit this group tremendously as they go deeper into the 2015 season.