Tennessee Titans-Carolina Panthers: Mirror Images?
Two teams with similar looks...
By now everyone in the football world should be familiar with the moniker, "Smash N' Dash." For those fans that are not, this is the nickname of both the Panthers' running backs, DeAngelo Williams and rookie Jonathan Stewart, as well as the Titans' backfield of LenDale White and rookie Chris Johnson.
It is not often that you see a two backfield-tandems sharing the same nickname. The question here is not where it all started, but who will continue to carry on the name?
For the Carolina Panthers (12-4) and the Tennessee Titans (13-3), this weekend will see these two teams continue their quest toward the promise land in Tampa, FL. Leading the way for both clubs will be their pair of running backs that are similar in more ways than just name.
The similarities: Both teams feature a rookie runner and a third-year running back. Both teams boasted a 1,000-yard rusher for 2008. Both teams feature a Pac-10 running back and a Conference USA running back.
Stewart, the Panthers' rookie running back was a first round selection, picked 13th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. While Johnson, the Titan's rookie ground gainer was the 24th pick in the first round.
White was drafted out of Southern California, while Stewart was drafted out of Oregon, both Pac-10 schools. Williams hails from Memphis and Johnson is out of East Carolina, both Conference USA schools.
Taking it a step further for spits and squiggles, both White and Williams share the same last initial.
From the outset of the 2008 regular season, both teams were expected to employ a time-share in the backfield, which they did. Williams (Car) and Johnson (Ten) were donned the starters with White and Stewart playing the best supporting actor role.
Fortunately for fantasy football gamers and football fans alike, neither team was a disappointment providing ample production from all four backs.
How the Titan's Roll...
During this past season, the Titan's pair of ball carriers earned their nickname. On October 19th they would rush for 332-yards and set a franchise record against the Kansas City Chiefs, giving the name "Smash N' Dash" new life.
Johnson (Dash) would go on to average almost five yards per carry in 251 attempts and lead the team with 1,228-yards rushing for the season. White (Smash) would add another 773-yards on the ground and punch through the goal line 15 times in 2008.
The two game-breakers would combine for 451 attempts, 2,001-yards rushing, average 4.4-yards per carry and score a total of 24 rushing touchdowns.
Whether the name was born of Titan descent or not, these two Tennesseans proved their worthiness by season's end. With a titanic matchup this Saturday against one of the league's best run stuffing defenses, Smash N' Dash (White and Johnson) will once again be called upon to render its' opponent helpless and elevate the team to the next level.
The Panther's Style...
While the moniker is skewed somewhat in controversy, no matter how it all started or where it began once it caught on, it stuck.
One of the Panthers running backs may be a little at fault for dubbing he and his teammate with the nickname. After Williams and Stewart completely dismantled the Lions' run defense for 250-yards and three touchdowns, Williams spoke out saying he felt the two backs needed a tag. Williams offered a couple of names, but it was "Smash and Dash" that took.
The Panther's prowling pair would better their Week 11 performance against Detroit, with a 301-yard, four touchdown showing against Tampa Bay in Week 14. By the conclusion of the 2008 season, Williams would finish with 1,515-yards and 18 touchdowns, while Stewart would wind up with 836-yards on the ground and 10 scores.
For the season, Carolina's dynamic duo would combine for 457 attempts, 2,351-yards, average 5.1-yards per carry and score a total of 28 rushing touchdowns.
The two Panthers will make their case this Saturday night against Arizona, a team that they have already faced once this season, but did not have quite the success of a "Smash and Dash" attack. There's little doubt that both Williams and Stewart will get plenty of chances to keep the team's crusade alive.
This weekend's divisional matchups may not bring an answer to when or where the nickname started, but for the sake of argument, it is another chance for these four gridiron gladiators to prove their worthiness.
So when the dust settles Saturday night, which two will "Smash and Dash" their way to the Championship round and continue their quest?
By David G. Ortega
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