The Carolina Panthers have built one of best defenses in the league this year, dominating their opponents with a combination of a ferocious front four, an elite linebacking corps and a ball-hawking secondary. The defensive line already had the dynamic duo of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, but it took the Panthers drafting Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short to complete the line and solidify the defense. Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly have evolved into the best linebacking duo in the league, and Chase Blackburn and A.J. Klein have done well in the third spot. Most importantly, the secondary hasn’t been a problem, with so-called “Legion of Whom” forcing turnovers despite youth and inexperience.
The one knock on this dominant unit is that a majority of their games have come against losing teams with floundering offenses, not mention not facing any top-tier quarterbacks. That all changed against with the New England Patriots bringing a high octane offense that not only had Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski but also surprising depth at running back and receiver. The defense struggled at times with this difficult matchup with Brady completing passes with astounding efficiency and the running game carving out holes up front. The Panthers gave up 390 total yards and 107 rushing yards, both well above their season average.
The defense clearly didn’t play as well as they have during the rest of their six game win streak, but that’s to be expected against an offense run by Tom Brady. Brady is a master at controlling the offense and getting them into the right play — a big reason why the Panthers had trouble against the running game and the quick passing game. The Patriots repeatedly found the weakness in the Panthers’ defense and exploited it, making it difficult for the defense to adapt. The Panthers will be looking to attack a severely depleted Miami Dolphins offensive line to put Ryan Tannehill on his butt before he can launch it to Mike Wallace, and they are perfectly capable of doing that. Even though they didn’t do well on Monday they are still one of the best defenses in the league.