Grading the Patriots
I stumbled across a really good breakdownof the Patriots overall performance this season from the Boston Globe. I think it is about as fair an assessment as you will find.
Here are some key points about the Patriots I feel are worth mentioning in regards to the game Monday night...
But Brady’s decision-making and accuracy have been off at times, and before the win against the Steelers, he hadn’t completed a pass over 30 yards in the air all season. But Brady has been money when it matters most, with four touchdowns and two interceptions in the fourth quarter and comeback drives against the Bills, Saints, and Jets.
The Panthers cannot rest on a 3rd quarter lead in this game. In the past Rivera has shown he likes to run the clock as much as possible on offense and let the defense secure a victory. In Buffalo this came back and bit him. Hopefully he continues to show he has learned from that mistake.
Ridley has 514 yards and six touchdowns in eight games, and is averaging a healthy 4.4 yards per carry as the primary rusher. He officially has only two fumbles (a third against Buffalo was overturned), but ball protection is still an issue, as his fumble against Pittsburgh demonstrated.
Ridley concerns me. The Panthers have had issues at times this type of runner. The Patriots have a really nice balance on offense. It will be interesting to see what Rivera and company come up with to stop it.
The top four receivers have combined for far too many drops — 25, including a league-high nine by Dobson — but have shown a lot of potential when they’re all healthy.
Drops are a problem Panthers fans can relate to. Luckily, the Panthers had a few last Sunday and never have that poor of a performance twice in a row. The Patriots have young receivers who may not focus after the bye week so easily, drops may be in their future.
But the run defense has been a bit leaky, ranked 30th in yards allowed (128.2) and 20th in yards per carry allowed (4.3), and the losses of Wilfork and Tommy Kelly may prove costly.
Music to the Panthers ears. With the triple threat of Williams, Stewart, and Tolbert will remain fresh Monday night. Look for Tolbert to get extra carries early in an attempt to wear down and loosen up the Patriots DLine. They are good, but not especially deep.
Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez abused the linebackers for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
Calling you out Greg Olsen... we need you to step up this game in a big way.
Talib was superb in his six games, helping to keep A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and Vincent Jackson in check and shutting out Jimmy Graham.
I don't feel Talib will blanket Smith the entire game. The Panthers have become fairly diverse in their passing game and the Patriots defense will reflect that. I do expect Smith to have a significant impact on Monday night.
They need to improve in red zone offense (18th) and on third-down conversions (27th). And they are getting outscored, 58-29, in the third quarter as they often come out flat after halftime. But they are also outscoring opponents, 80-37, in the fourth quarter, showing a propensity to get it done when the game is on the line.
The Panthers need to put the game away in the 3rd quarter and not let up. If its close going into the fourth, it will be trouble for the cats.