Colts Pass Rush Will Be Deciding Factor in vs. Panthers on Sunday

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIINovember 25, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 25: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to pass while under pressure from Dwight Freeney #93 and Robert Mathis #98 of the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Steelers won 23-20. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Last Sunday was somewhat pleasant. I wasn't upset and baffled at how bad this 2011 version of the Indianapolis Colts have become. After all they didn't lose, which is the first time I can say that since January 2nd.

This Sunday the Carolina Panthers bring in their rookie quarterback and a dismal 2-8 record. Earlier in the year, this team looked as if they would be a surprise threat in the NFC South this season. Cam Newton threw for over 400 yards in his first two career starts and was surprising the world.

Since, the Panthers have struggled.

Carolina enters Lucas Oil Stadium on the midst of a three game losing streak. And outside of a fantastic first half against the Detroit Lions last weekend they have played horribly bad.

Where the Panthers will give the Colts fits is through the air. The 2011 Number One draft pick Cam Newton is a big, strong quarterback with a great arm. This Colts secondary is the worst I've ever seen, so this will be an interesting match-up.

Newton is completing 60% of his passes for 2,885 yards. He's thrown 12 touchdown passes on the season as well. 

If the Colts want any chance to stop Newton and the Panthers they best bring the heat. Newton makes some bad decisions and has thrown 14 interceptions already.

Another problem Newton has is holding the ball too long. If the Colts get a good pass rush they can get to Newton as he has been sacked 23 times this year.

The problem is the Colts haven't had a good pass rush on anyone this year.

The Colts must use a similar game plan against the Panthers as they did earlier this season against the Steelers. The Panthers have speedy receivers like Pittsburgh, and Newton likes to hit his tight ends if the deep ball is covered.

Tight end Jeremy Shockey is second on this Panthers team in receiving with 37 receptions for 427 yards and four touchdowns.

The linebackers will need to be extremely fast and not leave the middle of the field wide open for Newton.

This will be the deciding factor on Sunday. If the Colts get a good pass rush, they will get their first win. If not, the Colts will be 0-11 heading into two tough match-ups against the Patriots and Ravens.