For Better or Worse – Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers

The Buffalo Bills and their fans marched in to Bank of America Stadium and delivered a punch directly to the gut of the Carolina Panthers. Make no mistake about it, today the Panthers offense is scrambling to figure out what went wrong. Still, the Carolina Panthers are 2-0 thanks to what could be the best defense the Carolina Panthers have ever fielded.

They are the team we have in 2017, for better or worse.

For Better 

Julius Peppers looks like the best Carolina Panthers free agent acquisition of 2017, despite his age. Peppers sacked the Bills quarterback twice on Sunday, the most by any Panthers players. After each big play, Peppers pointed to his young family in the stands and reminded them of why he is still playing this game.  “Family man” Julius Peppers suits the Carolina Panthers perfectly.

Whenever I inquired about the style of new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks this offseason, players would tell me how much more aggressive he is than Sean McDermott. We are starting to see what they meant by that.

The Panthers have not allowed  a single touchdown in their first two games of the NFL season. This is a first for the Panthers’ franchise and a significant improvement over recent seasons. The improved performance on third and fourth down is likely the biggest contributor to their success. The Panthers defense held Buffalo to just 4-13 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down. If they can reproduce those numbers on a weekly basis, the Panthers will likely finish the season with the top ranked defense in the league.

At this rate, Wilks could be an upgrade over Sean McDermott, not merely a replacement.

For Worse

It took only two weeks for the NFL to figure out how to stop the Carolina Panthers new “evolved” offense. As it turns out, it wasn’t so difficult to decipher.

Step one – Remove Christian McCaffrey from the equation. The Bills made sure they accounted for McCaffrey on every play. Swarm the Panthers’ first round rookie at the expense of leaving other areas of the field vulnerable. Stack eight men in the box and do not let him to the outside. Any time McCaffrey touched the ball, multiple Bills defenders were waiting for him. Without McCaffrey, the Panthers lost the majority of their quick plays and were left with the same slow developing downfield throws that we are all accustomed to seeing. You know, the ones that are getting Cam Newton killed. Which takes us to step two.

Step two – Get to Cam Newton. Once the run game and the quick throws to McCaffrey were shut down, the Carolina Panthers offense looked identical to the offense of past seasons. Unfortunately, Bills now head coach Sean McDermott could write the entire playbook himself from memory if he had to. It was then time to get to Cam Newton, which the Bills did all afternoon. The Bills ended up sacking Newton a total of six times but hitting and harassing him many more.

As it turns out, when you hit a quarterback that is already rusty from shoulder surgery his accuracy gets worse. Weird how that works, right? The Panthers offense was unable to adjust and Newton’s body paid the price. Now, on top of a sore shoulder he also has a twisted ankle to deal with this week. Much like last season, if the Panthers cannot figure out a way for Newton to get rid of the ball more quickly, the physical toll on Cam Newton will continue accrue and offensive coordinator Mike Shula will be to blame.

The blueprint to shutting down the Panthers offense is out there now, and it is only week three. Not good.

The good news? The Panthers are set to face one of the worst defenses in the league on Sunday. Cross your fingers folks. If they cannot score on the Saints, every single week will need to be a dominant defensive performance if the Carolina Panthers have any hope of reaching the offseason.

Agree? Disagree? You can sound off right here with thousands of Carolina Panthers fans.

Categories: Carolina Panthers
Tags: buffalo billsCam NewtonCarolina PanthersChristian McCaffreynfl