On paper, the Panthers offense against the Seahawks looks almost palatable.
Cam Newton threw with good accuracy, no interceptions, and a touchdown. Deangelo Williams averaged 4.75 yards per carry. If you read those statistics without watching the game you might assume the Panthers won the game.
The fact that the offense put together only 7 points has many people, myself included, scratching our heads.
I can best explain what I believe the Panthers offense was doing in boxing terms. Keep moving and throw lots of short jabs. Protect yourself from a devastating blow. Don't wind up for a knockout punch, it may backfire. Let the match play out and hope you kept it close enough for a judges decision.
This is the type of offense that Panthers offensive coordinator is known for. An offense that drives fans crazy, but defensive head coaches enjoy. Tony Dungy liked it in Tampa. Apparently Ron Rivera likes it here. These coaches relish the opportunity for defenses to win games.
However, the Panthers in game 1 took it too far in the conservative direction.
Here are three simple ways to improve on offense that can easily be implemented.
1. Let Cam be Cam. Cam Newton is a talent that should not be wasted like his name is Dilfer. One of Cam's strengths is the accuracy of his long ball. It makes no sense to acquire Tedd Ginn, who was open for the long ball yesterday, and not throw it to him. Even if incomplete a long pass play helps our offense by forcing the safeties to drop back in coverage and giving the short game more room to work. If you don't threaten deep, you may complete passes, but you won't go anywhere. Cam Newton's career low passing yards against the Seahawks are an indication that this is the case.
2. Keep them guessing. Third downs yesterday were extremely predictable, especially in short yardage situations. Shula has a history of this. I commented in the preseason that fans should get used to seeing a run up the gut on third downs. The Panthers need to add a variety of options on third down. A QB keeper after a play fake, a short slant to Smith, a pitch to the outside, anything but run up the gut. It is a safe bet that defensive coordinators have scouted Shula's Tampa days, if yesterday's game is any indication, they have done so for good reason. His tendencies have not changed.
3. Speed it up. I don't recall one play yesterday where the Seahawk defense was rushed or needed more time to get set up correctly. This happened numerous times to the Panthers defense. Going into a hurry up mode or even a no huddle unexpectedly would be a nice left hook to the chin.
4. Impose your will. This is not a X's and O's type of solution, but more of a mind set. Taking what the defense gives you is safe, but often it is not good enough. Afterall, they are giving it to you for a reason. You are falling into their game plan trap. Instead, attack them where they feel they are safe. In boxing terms, this knocks them back on their heels and makes them question their strategy. Winning offense attack aggressively, losing offenses settle passively.