Picking and Panning the Panthers' Playbook

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Picking and Panning the Panthers' Playbook
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

With my apologies to Siskel and Ebert, I want to review the highlights and low-lights of the Carolina Panthers’ play calling from 2008.

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“Smoke” Screen

The play is simple. Out of the I-Formation, QB Jake Delhomme takes the snap and gives a quick fake to the halfback then immediately throws a lateral pass to Steve Smith. On the snap, Smith just takes a quick step forward then steps back to receive the pass.

Smith is given the ball out in space, and not many cornerbacks can bring this quick and powerful WR down alone.

The play is important for several reasons. It baits the corner to play up closer, setting him up to get burned by a long bomb to Smith later. Also, it is a safe and fairly easy pass for Delhomme, who is sometimes erratic.

Smith is a master at taking nothing and making something out of it.

Misdirection Handoff

The Panthers had great success with this play last year. The idea is simple: Everyone goes in one direction, getting the defense to over-commit. After taking the handoff and moving several steps in one direction, the halfback (usually DeAngelo Williams on this play) suddenly goes in the opposite direction against the flow of the defense.

Williams broke a number of big plays last year on this simple yet effective play.

Stop and Go Route

Smith does a short out pattern, and Delhomme pump-fakes the ball the ball to him. The cornerback bites on the fake and Smith does an out-and-up down the sideline.

Without safety help, the cornerback is toast, and Smith is celebrating in the end zone.

WR Crossing Route

The Panthers run this play typically out of the I-formation and line WRs Smith and Muhsin Muhammad on opposite sides of the field. The receivers cross, often picking their defenders. Not many cornerbacks can stay with Smith on this crossing route.

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Sandlot Football

When in trouble, just have Delhomme drop back and chuck it up anywhere near Smith. Smith saved the ‘Cats several times in 2008 when he made jaw-dropping snags of Hail Mary-type flings from Delhomme.

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The Dreaded Draw

It’s third and 15, and you know what’s coming. Instead of getting the ball to game-breaker Smith, Delhomme drops back and hands it off to one of the halfbacks. Always good for seven yards. Bring on the punting team. Aargh!

These are just a few of the plays that stood out in my mind from 2008. Contrary to what some in Panthers’ nation believe, the Cats’ playbook has more than five plays.

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