It's no secret that Carolina Panthers' head coach John Fox puts a lot of emphasis on the run game.
According to Fox, a football team that is able to run the ball effectively will eventually become a team that can pass the ball effectively as well. For two seasons, fans of the Panthers have had to watch their team rush up the middle over and over again to no avail in situations where pass plays would normally be called.
After two seasons of dealing with criticism that Fox undoubtedly received from fans for calling these plays, it is finally paying off. Fox's Panthers finally have a strong running game and he has finally proven himself correct. A team that can move the ball on the ground can also move the ball through the air and, more importantly, win games.
So far this season, the Panthers have won every game in which they were able to put up 100-plus yards on the ground (save the second Atlanta game), and have lost every game in which they have failed to pick up those 100 rushing yards.
The team's rushing duo, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, have put up over 1400 yards on the ground and have combined for 19 total rushing touchdowns.
John Fox's running game has finally arrived in Carolina and it is doing wonderful things for the team.
As mentioned previously, Fox has promised fans that a strong run game opens up the pass game. This seems like it wouldn't make any logical sense. If the ball is run more often, the ball would get thrown less often, thereby shutting down the pass, right? The answer to that question is, for whatever reason, no.
This season with the Panthers, the ball has been thrown less often. But the pass game is far from being shut down. Steve Smith, the Panthers' No. 1 wide receiver, currently has 958 yards this season. The league leader has 1085. The league average is 307. Now take a deep breath and try to think this one through:
Steve Smith missed his first two games.
What? You're telling me that a football team that primarily rushes the ball currently has one of the best performing wide receivers in the league on their roster? How is that a possibility?
I'll be honest with you guys here: while I do have some theories, I really don't know the answer to that question.
What I do know, however, is that John Fox is one heck of a good coach; first for knowing that having a strong run game is vital to begin with and then for sticking to his plan through complaints from angry fans.
He has done what he set out to do a number of seasons ago, and it keeps getting more and more beautiful with each passing week.