Jonathan Stewart (six-year, $37.811 million contract) led the way with 10 carries for 35 yards. He also caught three passes for 11 yards.
Mike Tolbert (four-year, $8.4 million contract) rushed the ball three times for nine yards and scored a touchdown. DeAngelo Williams (five-year, $43 million contract) had four yards on two carries.
In a game where the Panthers weren’t terribly behind and in a situation where they had to throw all the time, there’s no reason why these three running backs should be an afterthought. Without Tolbert last year, Williams and Stewart combined with quarterback Cam Newton to pound opposing teams and finish with 2,408 yards rushing, the third-best of any NFL team.
This year, with the addition of Tolbert, who ran for 490 yards last year and caught 54 passes for 433 yards, Carolina ranked 19th headed into Sunday’s action. Had Newton not rushed for 64 yards to help bring Carolina’s total rushing yardage to 117 on the day, that No. 19 ranking would surely have dropped.
So why did the Carolina coaching staff only call the number of their running back trio 15 times on the ground and three other times as receiving options?
It wasn’t because Newton was having a terrific day.
Newton went 21-for-37 for 233 yards and had a touchdown pass and an interception. Sunday was definitely not his best performance (not his worst either), so there was no reason to keep it in his hand because it was hot.
There wasn’t any glaring weakness on the Dallas defense that forced Carolina to stay away from running. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
The Cowboys run defense was a stout eighth in the league headed into Week 7, giving up only 518 yards on the ground all year. But it’s pass defense was No. 2 in the league, allowing just 181.6 yards per game through the air.
Looking at that, shouldn’t the Panthers have almost double the carries they actually accumulated?
Maybe Williams was being punished, quietly, for getting all passive-aggressive on Twitter this week.
Instead of coming out and saying he was unhappy with the low number of carries he was getting, Williams re-tweeted a few thoughts from his fans.
After the game Sunday, he did it again, but this time said he wasn’t upset with the coaching staff; he was just re-tweeting fans.
Yeah right, Williams.
But hey, while I’m not buying what you’re trying to sell, I do agree with the sentiment you’re trying to get across.
Williams, Stewart and Tolbert aren’t being utilized to their fullest ability. And since Newton isn’t ready or able to put this team on his back and carry it to the playoffs, a move back towards a pounding running game needs to happen.
The Panthers are an NFC-worst 1-5 and not getting better. Something has to change.