Carolina Panthers’ Defense Shines in Quarterback Duel

By Robert Kester

Sunday’s anticipated showdown between Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III resulted in a Panthers victory, 21-13.

More importantly however, was what this much anticipated match-up among two of the most prolific quarterbacks in the NFL told us about each one.

Newton’s performance on the road Sunday further proved the notion that the second-year quarterback didn’t forget how to play the game of football. In fact, it proved that Newton is highly capable of becoming a leader because of the way he handled himself on the field with all of the negative attention in the world focused on him. While in the meantime, Washington’s Griffin had all of the positive praise pointed in his direction.

Clearly, Newton was portrayed as the bad-guy and Griffin the good-guy headed into Sunday’s contest.

Subsequent to a Panthers’ win, the negative perception of Newton changed and demonstrated that Griffin has a lot of work to do before he can vault himself ahead of Newton.

So putting the quarterback battle aside, the real story from Sunday was Carolina’s defense. The Panthers’ defensive game-plan was well orchestrated and executed all afternoon long and in the end it exposed Griffin’s biggest weakness.

The Panthers brought disciplined pressure throughout the game, sacking Griffin four times for a total of 29 lost yards.

Carolina’s defense played smart. They understood that firehouse blitzes would only fuel Griffin’s play making ability down-field, so instead the Panthers rushed three or four guys most of the day. Fewer pass rushers means more defenders in coverage, ultimately resulting in keeping Griffin contained and a non-factor during the action. Griffin will eventually figure this out, but for now he struggles when there are more defenders in coverage rather than running at his face.

Of course, conservative pressure only works if the defensive linemen are able to make plays and Carolina’s front-four did. All four of Carolina’s sacks came from defensive linemen; a drastically improved unit that is beginning to make a name for themselves around the league.

The play from Carolina’s defense and Newton’s positive production were the first few steps needed to make positive traction.

As far as Griffin and the Redskins are concerned, it seems they are still a year away from becoming a true playoff contender. Griffin will improve, but for now the score reads Newton-1 and Griffin-0.

Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1


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