Panthers vs. Colts: 5 Things We Learned in 27-19 Win

Tyler HornerCorrespondent IINovember 27, 2011

Panthers vs. Colts: 5 Things We Learned in 27-19 Win

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    The Panthers did their best to blow a comfortable fourth-quarter lead, but the Colts couldn't execute down the stretch and Sherrod Martin came away with a game-sealing interception in the end zone. 

    Both of Curtis Painter's interceptions came in the fourth quarter and were made in the end zone. When a team fails to capitalize in scoring territory like the Colts did, it's hard to come away with a win. 

    The Panthers now stand at 3-8 and the Colts, who fall to 0-11, seem destined to land the Andrew L...I mean, first pick in the draft. Let the controversy begin! 

    Read on for further details on the Panthers' 27-19 victory in Indianapolis. 

Run Game

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    The Panthers now boast one of the most effective run games in the NFL. Their three-headed monster, composed of Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, runs the ball efficiently and can make a bad play call look good with their talent. 

    Carolina now has the flexibility to put all three players on the field at the same time and they did so to open the game. They also ran the option numerous times, and were successful on all but a couple attempts. 

    It will be interesting to see how Carolina's run game fares against a stronger rush defense and they will get that chance in two weeks when they face Atlanta. Next week they face one of the worst run defenses in the league in Tampa Bay

Pass Protection

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    The Panthers continued to struggle in pass protection on Sunday and Newton took a lot of hits. Jordan Gross played a solid game against one of the best pass-rushers of the last decade in Dwight Freeney, but the right side of the offensive line once again struggled. 

    Byron Bell played better than past weeks, but collectively, the right side of the offensive line failed to pick up some odd stunts from the Colts. This resulted in rushed passes from Newton, who handled it well, considering the amount of pressure he was facing. 

    Newton did face a surprise when he was unable to escape Dwight Freeney on an attempt to spin outside of the pocket. He ended up spinning right into Freeney's arms and causing a big loss when it would have been a better decision to step up in the pocket. 

Discipline

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    Do I really have to explain this again? 

    The Panthers are absolutely one of the least-disciplined football teams that I have ever watched and while Rivera puts it on the players to discipline themselves, he needs to take a bigger role in ensuring that they understand the position that they put their team in when they commit a mental miscue. 

    Unnecessary holds, bailout pass interferences and blatant blocks in the back—they all need to disappear if the Panthers want to become a more consistent team. 

3-4 vs. 4-3

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    The Panthers are in the midst of a transition to a 3-4 defense—whether or not they have the personnel to run that defense is a different story. 

    Ron Rivera has run the 3-4 with success in the past, but the Panthers defensive line failed to maintain their gaps, which makes it very difficult to defend the run in that scheme. The Panthers also don't have great man-coverage corners outside of Chris Gamble, another detrimental aspect to a 3-4 defense. 

    The Panthers ran the majority of their plays in the 4-3 though, so it makes you wonder what exactly Rivera's plan is with this defense. I'm in favor of the 4-3, but it seems that the defensive-minded coach is testing the team's ability to play a different scheme that seems to be growing in popularity. 

Special Teams

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    I was one of the many viewers who believed Kealoha Pilares' record-setting touchdown return last week was a fluke, but Pilares proved us all wrong on Sunday. 

    He has great vision and found another seam in the coverage against the Colts. He broke open a 76-yard return that set the Panthers up to extend their lead and make it an eight-point deficit.

    Although the Colts' athletic punter Pat McAfee was able to chase him down, he won't often face kickers with McAfee's speed. I wouldn't be surprised if Pilares became the team's long-term returner. He has a short memory and is only gaining confidence. He is yet to make the same mistake twice as a returner, which makes him an attractive option.