The Carolina Panthers had a pretty good amount riding on their matchup with the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, even with it being just week seven of the 2013 NFL season. The Panthers were trying to get to a .500 record on the season and were, more importantly, trying to get people to start taking them seriously as a potential playoff team.
In terms of being taken seriously, Carolina’s offense didn’t do them a whole lot of favors. Cam Newton played decently, but didn’t wow as he threw for just 204 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions on 17 attempts. The Panthers ran the ball much more frequently, 38 times to be exact, but didn’t have much success on the ground either. Carolina finished with just 102 yards rushing, good for one touchdown and only 2.7 yards per carry. Those numbers don’t even factor in the poor play call deep in their own territory that led to a safety.
As has often been the case this year for Carolina, though, their defense was able to get the job done, essentially having success from the opening snap. Within the first minute of the game, Captain Munnerlyn picked off Sam Bradford and took it to the house, which set the defensive tone for the game. That interception was one of the three turnovers that the Panthers were able to force on the day, which was huge in how they played.
Looking at the yardage Carolina allowed to St. Louis, their defensive effort might not seem that impressive. They allowed 317 yards on the day, 254 through the air and 63 on the ground, but the biggest thing that the Panthers’ defense was able to accomplish was to stop the Rams on third down when they were in Carolina territory, only allowing one touchdown on the day.
If the Panthers, who now sit at 3-3, want to have any chance of getting to the postseason, their defense is going to have to consistently deliver this type of effort. This Newton-led offense certainly has the potential to be dangerous, but they’ve yet to show that they can do that on a weekly basis. Until that happens, the Panthers’ defense is going to need to lead the way.