Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
I have saved the obvious for last. While this one is neither inexcusable nor easily correctable, it's nevertheless hard to ignore.
The difficulties stopping the run really shouldn’t be surprising anybody. Before the season, the team’s run D promised to have its ups and downs. The line backing core of Thomas Davis, Jon Beason and James Anderson appeared to be a strength. But with a D-line set to consist of rising star defensive end Charles Johnson, veteran Ron Edwards, and unproven rookies and other young players next to and behind them, this front seven wasn’t exactly expected to dominate.
With Edwards’ season-ending injury in the preseason, followed by the losses of Jon Beason and Thomas Davis in Weeks 1 and 2, Carolina is badly undermanned at virtually every position in the front seven, with the exception of Johnson and Anderson at end and outside linebacker.
Rookie defensive tackles Terrell McClain and Sione Fua are showing flashes, and the backups at the linebacker positions are starting to improve, but it seems like another player is injured every week. Backup linebacker Thomas Williams was the latest example of this when the team placed him on IR Tuesday with a neck injury.
Despite the attrition, the Panthers did a nice job bottling up Minnesota’s superstar running back Adrian Peterson, and if they can slow down AP, they should fear no one going forward.
An interesting possibility is the idea of Cam Newton and the offense playing keep-away. If Carolina can bleed the clock on scoring drives with any consistency, the scoreboard will put the ground game on the back burner, which is exactly what happened against Washington.
While Tim Hightower’s third-quarter injury was the biggest reason the Redskins stopped running the ball down the stretch, handoffs undoubtedly lost their appeal after three straight Panthers drives—two of which consumed at least 5:57 of clock—ended in touchdowns. If the Panthers can jump out to big leads early, they can stop the run the same way the Colts and Saints won Super Bowls in 2006 and 2009—without stout front sevens—by forcing teams to play catch up.