Carolina Panthers' Reasons for Struggle in 07-08 Season
The Carolina Panthers struggled mightily last year.
In 2007-08, the Panthers ranked 26th in the NFL in points per game at 16.7, 29th in total YPG at 284.9, 29th in pass yards per contest at 170.9, and 14th in rushing yards at 114 per game.
These stats indicate very poor offensive efficiency. And for good reason.
When everyone (including starting quarterback Jake Delhomme) was healthy, Carolina's attack was rolling. In their first three games they scored at least 21 points, and on two occasions totaled 27 points. In two of their first three games they outscored their opponents 54-33.
But in Week 3 at Atlanta Delhomme went down with a strained elbow. It later required season-ending Tommy John surgery. Delhomme's injury threw Carolina's offense into a tailspin.
Backup QB David Carr, who had been signed in the offseason just in case Delhomme got hurt, started two games until Week 6. In those two games Carolina's offense stalled and delivered only 23 points between them; seven in the first and 16 in the second. The first game was a loss to the Buccaneers, the second a three-point win over the Saints.
Before their Week 6 game against the Cardinals, the Panthers goaded Vinny Testaverde out of retirement and signed him to a one-year contract. Testaverde was signed to backup David Carr, who had injured his back in Week 5 against New Orleans.
That Sunday, Testaverde led Carolina to a 25-10 win over Arizona.
The next week brought a 31-7 loss at the hands of the Colts. Testaverde started.
Carr started again the next week at Tennessee and lost 20-7.
Testaverde started against Atlanta in Week 10 and lost a close one, 20-13.
Testaverde started in the Week 11 Packers' game, which resulted in a 31-17 Panthers' loss.
However, Carr started against New Orleans on November 25 and lost, 31-6.
Then Vinny started again the next week against the 49ers. Carolina won 31-14.
Testaverde's number was called in Week 14 against the Jaguars. The Panthers lost 37-6.
All season, after Delhomme's injury, fans had been calling for Carr's (who was now public enemy number one among Panther fans) head. They had wanted Vinny to start every game once Carolina signed him. Every game Carr started in place of Vinny that he lost made Panther fans hate him more and more. But at the same time many knew that Vinny couldn't get the job done at his age.
Word about an aspiring new quarterback got out. His name was Matt Moore. He was an undrafted free agent who had found his way onto the Panthers' final 53-man roster when Brett Basanez got hurt before the season even started and was forced to sit the year out.
Some fans had seen Moore play in college and liked him. Soon, most Panther fans became very vocal about their desire to start Moore and see what happened. After all, he couldn't be worse than Carr. They got their wish.
In Week 15 against the Seahawks, Moore started and led the Panthers to a 13-10 win.
In Week 16, Moore started against the Cowboys and lost 20-13.
In the final week of the season, Moore started and won 31-23 against Tampa Bay.
The mixed results brought on by having the same quarterback starting at most three weeks in a row after Delhomme's injury threw the chemistry between the QB and his wide receivers off. That created bad timing on throws, resulting in interceptions and incompletions.
The inability of the passing game allowed opposing defenses to focus heavily on the rushing attack, which was already bad enough.
Head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson had a stubborn run up the middle on every down mentality. Maybe that wouldn't have been such a bad thing if their running back and offensive system fit.
DeShaun Foster wasn't a power back. But the Carolina staff tried to make him into one. For that matter, Foster was a terrible halfback.
With the passing game stagnant and the running game heavily defended, the offense never had the ball for more than a minute or two. This, in turn, meant that the defense was on the field for way too long, and it showed.
The defense allowed 21.7 PPG (16th in the NFL), 324.8 YPG (16th), 214.1 pass YPG (14th), and 110.7 rushing YPG (18th). There are two reasons for this.
The first is that the offense left the defense on the field for way too much time of every game. This meant that the defense got tired faster and stayed tired longer, significantly raising an opposing offense's effectiveness against them.
The second reason pertains more to pass defense. Defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac always had his defensive backs start at least ten yards from the line of scrimmage because he didn't want to get burned on long passes.
This created a huge gap between the linebackers and the DBs, allowing opponents to pass into the gaps for medium gains that kept most drives going longer. This only added to the time the defense was on the field.
The time that the defense spent on the field also had an effect on the offense's efficiency. Because of the fact that the other team's offense stayed on the field so long, their defense was very well-rested. This enhanced their ability to stop Carolina's attack.
All of these factors combined to hold the Panthers' offense to low point totals in many games and force the defense to give up lots of points. With odds like that, it's no wonder the Panthers were lucky to finish 7-9 last year.
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