Over the past two years the Carolina Panthers have had an explosive offense, one that had the potential to score at any time (key word: potential). Cam Newton‘s natural ability and Rob Chudzinski‘s aggressive play-calling were tailor-made for big plays, but they also led to turnovers. So when Chudzinski left for Cleveland, Ron Rivera‘s main point of emphasis for new offensive coordinator Mike Shula was to simplify to the offense and limit turnovers. While the new offense certainly limited turnovers, at least by Newton, it also failed to put points on the board. So, what are the Panthers to do?
At the beginning of the game against the Seahawks, I was really liking the new offense. The power running game kept the offense in manageable situations, and while the offense was stalled by a few key drops, I thought the unit had the potential to really rumble down the field and dominate time of possession. Once Cam threw the touchdown to Steve Smith in the red zone I was really feeling good about Shula’s offense, but that’s when things started going downhill. Once Carolina scored they appeared to try and sit on that lead, reverting to a conservative run-run-pass play call system that, while it did eat up some clock, failed to challenge or open up the defense and didn’t seem to be trying to score.
Keep in mind, however, that this is the Seahawks’ defense we are talking about. While they were missing many key defensive players, especially on the defensive line, they still have two of the best at their position in Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, and one of the biggest hitters in Kam Chancellor. Perhaps the reason that Cam Newton didn’t take chances down field was because he didn’t want to test Thomas and Chancellor, or that Sherman wouldn’t allow Steve Smith to beat him over the top. Either way, it’s not totally Shula’s or Newton’s fault that Carolina struggled to gain yards in the passing game.
The Panthers won’t have to face the “Legion of Boom” again this season, so hopefully they will open up the offense more and look to put some points on the board. The Panthers need to try and stretch the field more and use the cannon arm of Cam Newton, that way underneath routes will open up and the Panthers’ receivers can find some room to run. Look for Steve Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. to run more vertical routes in the future, and hopefully the Panthers can get their roar back.