A 3-point plan to get the Panthers off to a better start vs. Eagles
The Carolina Panthers preach starting fast. They try to start fast.
Yet they don’t start fast. The Panthers (3-2) have a respectable record entering Sunday’s game at Philadelphia, but a lot of that is because of good work the offense has done in the second and fourth quarters.
But at the beginning of the game and right after halftime, the Panthers just can’t get it done offensively. Here are the number of points the team has scored through five games: First quarter: 17. Second quarter: 50. Third quarter: 10. Fourth quarter: 44.
So let’s consider this. The Panthers are scoring 78 percent of their points in the second and fourth quarters.
What’s going wrong in the first and third quarters, then, and what should change? Here’s my three-point plan to help matters.
1. Be more aggressive in playcalling. Coach Ron Rivera pooh-poohed the notion last week that, with the best running quarterback in NFL history behind center in Cam Newton, he should have gone for a fourth and 1 at his 47 in the first quarter. Rivera punted instead, once again turning from Riverboat Ron into John Fox.
Washington coach Jay Gruden did go for a fourth and 1 in almost the exact same situation soon after that, at his own 45. Washington made it and was off to the races, scoring a touchdown shortly afterward on its way to a 17-0 lead.
Yes, football is a violent chess match early. But you have to take a chance sometimes. Move your queen or a bishop out occasionally. Don’t just shuffle the pawns around.
2. Get speed involved early. A reverse. A deep ball. A trick play. The Panthers have some fast guys now, yet they so rarely score the 50-yard touchdown. It doesn’t have to be all Christian McCaffrey on the first drive.
3. Hold something back for the third quarter. Carolina has been horrible in the third quarter offensively, scoring only an average of two points per game. This is where the Panthers need to hold at least three or four of their favorite plays of the week back, using them on their first drive after halftime. Set a tone in the third quarter and not every game will come down to the final drive.
Philadelphia is hard to beat
at Lincoln Financial Field. Since 2016, the Eagles are 17-4 on their home turf (including playoffs). That 81 percent winning percentage is second-best in the NFL in that span, trailing only New England. The Panthers, on the other hand, haven’t won on the road yet this season.
Prediction time. I dropped
to 4-1 on the season picking Carolina last week when I chose the Panthers to defeat Washington. Instead, they lost 23-17. This week I think they are catching the Eagles at a bad time, when Philadelhpia is just starting to get hot.
My pick: Philadelphia 27, Carolina 21.