What The Panthers Have To Do On
An Insiders perspective from New England.
By Jon Scott
In order for the Panthers to win, they must focus on attacking three areas where the Super Bowl champions have shown weakness:
1) Run up the middle
With the loss of Keith Traylor, Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson, the Patriots have had difficulty slowing down the opponents runs in between the hashes. In the preseason, teams were able to drive down the field gaining 4, 5 even 7 yards at a clip on the ground. Some of that has been chalked up to the inexperience of the Patriots reserve linemen, but that may not be the whole picture. During the Oakland game, the Raiders drove down the field with LaMont Jordan gaining 7 yards at a clip, with runs of 7, 2, 7, 2 and 7 yards against the Patriots starting front seven. The success the Raiders had running forced the Patriots to bring in an extra defensive lineman to solidify the rush defense and slow Jordan down. With one more defender forced to play on the line, the Panthers and Delhomme should have opportunities to be more aggressive with the passing game.
2) Throw deep
The Patriots have a solid bend and don't break defense strategy in their secondary. The strategy is to play the zone and take away the big plays. The Raiders have shown that without the Patriots doubling the primary receiver (albeit that was Randy Moss), they're susceptible to big plays. A receiver with speed can get open before the safety can get over to cover. If the Panther are able to run off the safety help thereby getting man coverage, they should be able to hit some deep passes. A couple big plays early will force the DBs to adjust, thus enabling Carolina to open up the Patriots defense for mid-range passes as well. If the Panthers have time, and can show patience in going with the deep ball, they'll eventually get the yardage they need to be in scoring position.
3) Get to Brady
Its a well known fact that teams which don't bring enough pressure to get Tom Brady out of his rhythm suffer the consequences of being picked apart. The times Brady has pressure in his face (up the middle) he's hurried throws overthrowing wide open TE's like Graham, or receivers on midrange patterns. Last season when Miami was able to bring the heat, Brady had one of the worst games of his career. It wasn't that Brady was off as much as it was the aggressive attacking defense forcing the Patriots to settle on 3-yard dump offs and multiple 3-and-outs. If the Panthers can bring the heat forcing Brady into quick decisions, they're going to have a lot less Deion Branch outs, posts or Tim Dwight fly patterns to worry about. The times Brady gets hurried or pressured throughout the game his QB rating has dropped under 80 (Pittsburgh, Miami) ... without that pressure he usually nets closer to 100 or more on his way to racking up big numbers.
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