Posted 21 November 2012 - 02:45 AM
Carolina – Three Performances of Note
Hardy Plays Hard
Coming into Sunday’s game, Freeman had been pressured on 30% of his drop-backs. Against the Panthers, however, Freeman faced pressure on just over 43% of his drop-backs, in large part due to the outstanding play of Greg Hardy. Lining up in multiple spots along the defensive line, Hardy terrorized Donald Penn and the Tampa Bay offensive line to the tune of 11 combined QB disruptions, including a sack and three QB hits. His best stretch came midway through the fourth quarter, when he pressured Freeman three times in a span of five plays, as he beat Penn twice to the inside and then got into the backfield on a stunt. Only a penalty for encroachment on 3rd-and-short and a missed tackle kept Hardy’s grade of +4.1from being even higher.
Newton (+2.3) bounced back from a very poor showing against Denver with a solid, if unspectacular, performance versus the Bucs, throwing for 252 yards and a touchdown. And while his 55.2% completion percentage doesn’t look very impressive, the number doesn’t tell the whole story, as he was under pressure all game and had to deal with a few drops by his receivers — in fact, his adjusted completion percentage was actually 72%. As he always seems to do, Newton also made a number of plays with his legs. The six designed QB runs weren’t extremely successful, but he was able to make plays when the pocket broke down in the passing game, combining for 27 yards the three times he eluded the rush. Also quite impressive was that Newton took only two sacks, despite facing pressure on a ridiculous 58.8% of his drop-backs.
However, like the entire Panthers team, Newton just didn’t do quite enough to put the game away, often showing why he’s been the fifth-least accurate quarterback in the league. For an example of his shoddy accuracy, look no further than the end of the second quarter when a string of Newton overthrows ended any shot at the Panthers extending their lead going into the half.
What Happened to the Running Game?
It’s amazing how much the Panthers have struggled to run the ball, given the team’s success on the ground a year ago. Needless to say, they didn’t get it going against the strong run defense of the Buccaneers. On 33 attempts between Newton, Jonathan Stewart, and DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers gained just 101 yards. After each averaged 5.5 yards per carry a year ago, Stewart and Williams are now averaging just 3.6 and 3.4 yards per attempt on the season. Against Tampa Bay, the Panthers were particularly poor on runs to the edges, where they combined to lose 4 yards on five carries. One reason for the struggles on the outside was the blocking — or lack thereof — by Greg Olsen (-3.7). In Olsen’s defense, he was used as a lead blocker on a number of plays, which is not exactly the tight end’s strong suit. What has also been baffling has been how Carolina has gone away from the two- and three-tight end sets that were so successful last season. On Sunday, the Panthers ran two-tight end sets just 23% the time, a common occurrence this season