Saturday, January 21, 2006

Panther Power
By Zach

Editor's Note: With the biggest game in Seahawk history looming on the horizon, you might be wondering why it is that you haven't seen any kind of preview from me. Well, I decided that it might be more interesting for you to see things from the other side of the fence. Thus, I enlisted the help of one of the top sports bloggers out there, and a huge Panthers fan, Todd from NFL Spam. I wrote a Seahawks preview that you can can find on his site, and he's been kind enough to return the favor with a Panthers preview. Here it is, in its entirety.

In their third NFC Championship game in eleven seasons, the Panthers are looking to return to the Super Bowl. The road will not be easy, as they face the #1 seed in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks. What will it take to win?


Find Steve Smith early and often: It’s no secret that the Panthers want to get Steve Smith involved. Whether it is an end around, hitch route, or punt return, Steve Smith must touch this ball at least 15 times in this game if the Panthers hope to win. Dan Henning will look to exploit Seattle’s pedestrian secondary from the jump, and Andre Dyson will need to have the game of his life to keep from looking like a fool on national television. However, teams have been doing this all year with similar results. With Seattle expected to double and possibly triple team Smith, expect Ricky Proehl to have his obligatory “how the hell did he get that open” drive-saving catch or possible TD.

Control the clock: This of course is essential in any football contest, but with the Panthers it is a necessity. This means running the ball effectively, because they are not built to play from behind, but are capable of putting up points in bunches if need be John Fox and Dan Henning will run the ball regardless of the outcome for that purpose. Dan Henning’s offense is not complicated – run, run, run, throw deep to Smith. They have no problem with gaining 2 yards on a 3 and out then turning it over to the defense. Panther’s running game wasn’t great all year, but they continue to be a run first offense. Running backs coach Jim Skipper does an excellent job of preparing the stable of running backs so any back that is called upon will play well. For those who don’t know anything about Nick Goings, he a versatile and powerful. He rarely uses yardage and is extremely effective in the passing game.

Give Jake some Xanex: I’m not going to lie, I love Jake Delhomme. I love his mental toughness and his gun-slinger attitude that usually is good for a few big plays a game. However, just like Brett Favre, Delhomme is just as likely to throw a back-breaking interception or two. If Jake struggles early, the outcome will not be good. Dan Henning needs to make Jake Delhomme comfortable and his confidence will take care of the rest. Although Jake looks at Smith first on every pass play, he is as equally comfortable with WRs Drew Carter and Ricky Proehl.


Shut down Alexander: This may not be as difficult as the media may lead you to believe. Not to take anything away from Alexander, but the Seahawks have had arguably the easiest schedule in the NFL. 12 of Seattle’s 16 opponents had losing records (compared to Carolina’s 7). Alexander has put up impressive numbers against some of the worst teams in the league, but when facing the only three playoff teams the Seahawks played this year, he’s struggled. In addition, Alexander is averaging just 2.8 yard per carry in his playoff career. The Panthers front seven limited Tiki Barber, the NFL’s second-leading rusher to just 41 yards in their first wildcard game. Seattle’s offensive line will pose a formidable challenge, but DC Mike Trgovac will have a plan in place.

Be physical with Seattle’s receivers: To have consistent and effective pressure from the front four, the Panthers must do what they have done all year, jam receivers at the line and knock your head off if you haven’t gone the required five yards. All six (yes, Manning is included due to Seattle’s favored three-receiver sets) of the Panther’s defensive backs love to hit and force turnovers. Although not a full time starter, rookie Thomas Davis, 6’1” 230lbs, has lined up at S, LB, DE, and DT for the Panthers this year. Expect him to see him in blitz packages. With Seattle’s corps of marginal receivers, The Panthers will be able to play man coverage all day without sacrificing help in the run game.

Turn Julius Peppers loose: Although Julius Peppers missed a substantial amount of practice this week with a shoulder injury, make no mistake, he will be playing on Sunday. Peppers has played the majority of the season with a cast on his hand and a bad ankle, and he was still effective. Mike Trgovac is as likely to send Peppers up field or drop him back in coverage. In this game, Peppers needs to be allowed to do what he does best, relentlessly rush the passer. With the recent troubles of RT Sean Locklear, I wonder how effective he will be. This week had to have been a major distraction, and of course needs to be exploited. With LT Jones to matching up one-on-one with DE Mike Rucker, expect the protection to slide over to the right site with Stevens and Alexander sent to help block Peppers. However, neither of them have the strength, size, or quickness to contain him.


While a strength of the Panthers, special teams look to be the weakness of the Seahawks. The Panthers coverage unit is exceptional and has forced turnovers all year. With Steve Smith in the return game, the Panthers routinely have good field position.


Panthers 29, Seahawks 21


- Head coach John Fox is tied for third in League history with four postseason road victories, trailing only Tom Landry (seven) and Joe Gibbs (five).

- Wide receiver Steve Smith became the third player in NFL history to record 10 or more receptions in consecutive postseason appearances, joining Tony Nathan and Jerry Rice.

- Quarterback Jake Delhomme's 108.4 postseason passer rating is the third highest in League history after six starts, trailing only Troy Aikman and Joe Theismann.

- The Panthers have scored 29 points in four of their six playoff games under John Fox. In 2003, they beat Dallas, 29-10, and St. Louis, 29-23, before losing Super Bowl XXXVIII to New England, 32-29. They beat Chicago, 29-21, this season.

- Since 2003, the Panthers are 16-7 in NFC games outside their division, including 5-0 in the playoffs.

- The Panthers have scored at least six points in all but one quarter during the last three games. In that stretch, they have held the opponent scoreless in seven quarters. Carolina has outscored its last three opponents 21-3 in the first quarter, 32-7 in the second, 24-7 in the third and 19-15 in the fourth.

- The Panthers have the highest ranked defense remaining in the playoffs. Carolina finished third in total defense, Pittsburgh fourth, Denver 15th, and Seattle 16th.

- Carolina is 12-0 when shutting out its opponent in either the first or second quarter this season.

- The 2003 Carolina Panthers were plus eight in the postseason in take-away/give-away in four games. The 2005 Panthers are plus five through two games.


Blogger Todd said...

OK, so that went over well.

11:51 PM  

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