A 3-point plan to get the Pan­thers off to a bet­ter start vs. Ea­gles

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY SCOTT FOWLER [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140, @scot­t_­fowler

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.

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