WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
Carolina has a nasty defense. And while it’s incumbent on me to point out that they haven’t faced an offense of outstanding ability all year – Niners, Falcons, Bucs, Rams, Vikings, Cards, Giants, Bills, Seahawks – Carolina’s not just holding down crap offenses, they are throttling them. The Panthers tackles – Star Lotulelei and Dwan Edwards – allow linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis to pursue and swarm and the result is opponents are going for just 82 yards per game on the ground. The defensive ends – Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy – have combined for 14.5 sacks. On the back end of the defense, corners Captain Munnerlyn (an all-time great name), Melvin White and Drayton Florence are capable. Safeties Quintin Mikell and Mike Mitchell are solid not spectacular. Against a front-seven like that, which employs zone blitzes as Carolina does, spread offense is often the best antidote. That way, there’s less confusion about who’s coming and who’s dropping. It also creates more individual matchups on the perimeter in the passing game and can open up space on the interior for running lanes. Then it boils down to simple execution. With the Patriots having had extra prep time for the Panthers and Tom Brady being absolutely diabolical when it comes to relishing the chance to pick apart upstarts, look for New England to empty the bucket on Carolina in terms of variety. And look for Carolina to not know what hit it.