Carolina Panthers Are More Than a Defensive Team Now

Matthew GilmartinSenior Analyst IDecember 17, 2008

Since John Fox became the head coach of the Carolina Panthers in 2002, the team has been known to emphasize the running game and defense in its formula for success.

Carolina is still true to the first part of the formula.

The Panthers have perhaps the best overall running game in the NFL

They can use the run to sustain drives and keep the opposing defense on the field longer with a sturdy 4.8 yards per carry average. 

But they can also hit you just like that with the run. Carolina has 20 rushing plays of 20-plus yards, second in the NFL only to the Minnesota Vikings, who have 21. In addition, they lead the league in rushing plays of 40 yards or more, with six.

But no matter how the Panthers get the ball down to the goal line, they will punch it into the end zone. Carolina has scored 25 rushing touchdowns this season, which leads the league. The Titans, with 22, are No. 2. 

Plus, this dynamic Panthers rushing attack is keyed by a duo of RBs, No. 34 DeAngelo Williams and No. 28 Jonathan Stewart, that divides carries pretty evenly when both guys play.

This unselfish distribution of carries makes the running offense even better because neither Williams nor Stewart tires as easily, giving them more sustaining power over the late part of the season and a chance to be more efficient even as fatigue starts to take a toll on other backs.

This dynamic, well-rounded running attack has the team averaging 25.7 points per game, even though the Panthers have a relatively weak passing game despite having Steve Smith on the roster.

That's a far cry from John Fox Panthers teams of old—even the 2003 Super Bowl team—that couldn't seem to score enough and always had to rely on the defense to win games. 

Granted, the Panthers still play great defense—even though the pass defense (with the exception of the Broncos game) and run defense aren't stingy when it comes to yards per game, Carolina only surrenders 18.9 points per game, good for sixth in the NFL.

But that's not all John Fox's Panthers rely on now. They have a potent offense (if only a great rush offense—but hey—that's all they need) to go with it.