Carolina Panthers Return to Run-First, Winning Formula vs. Houston Texans

Jimmy GrapponeCorrespondent IDecember 19, 2011

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34)
Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34)Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers (5-9) returned to what I've been calling their "winning formula" in Sunday's 28-13 road victory over the Houston Texans (10-4).

Cam Newton had his lowest passing total of the season, completing 13-of-23 passes for 149 yards to go with two touchdowns and zero turnovers. He also added 55 yards rushing on seven carries.

The Panthers supplemented their rushing attack with 15 carries by DeAngelo Williams for 61 yards and a score, 11 carries by Jonathan Stewart for 43 yards and a 7-yard touchdown carry by reserve tight end Richie Brockel.


Winning Formula

Panthers offensive coordinator, Rob "Chud" Chudzinski dialed up 34 run plays and 24 passing plays—Armanti Edwards completed his only attempt Steve Smith for 11 yards—but his creativity in the play calling did not wane in his run-first strategy.

Brockel scored on a "Fumblerooskie" play in which Newton handed the ball to Brockel under his legs in a sort of reverse quarterback-to-center exchange near the end of the first half to put the Panthers ahead 21-0 at halftime.

The Panthers also used a cleverly designed bootleg play in which Newton rolled to his right and tight end Jeremy Shockey stayed in to block on the left side in a bunched formation before breaking off to the left where Newton found him wide open in the flats for a 26-yard gain.

Chud's play calling and the Panthers' execution allowed the offense to pick up yardage in bunches on several occasions, including Williams' 24-yard touchdown run that would have scored from the opposite end zone, and they also controlled the clock with a 5:08 advantage in time of possession.


Two Games Left

The Panthers have two games remaining in the season against their NFC South rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10) and the New Orleans Saints (11-3).

Carolina beat the Bucs 38-19 in Tampa in Week 13 behind a strong running game and Newton's three touchdowns on the ground, the last which broke Steve Grogan's previous record of 12 for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season.

The Panthers lost to the Saints 30-27 at home in Week 5 when the Saints scored the go-ahead touchdown in the game's closing minutes.

In the victory at Tampa, Carolina dominated the game with 163 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground on 39 carries while passing the ball only 22 times.

In their loss to the Saints, Carolina carried the ball 22 times for 162 yards and a pair of touchdowns but put the ball in the air 31 times.

The winning formula for the Panthers this season has been to run more often than they pass and if they do that in each of their next two games, they have a chance to win them both, especially with Tampa Bay continuing to struggle and New Orleans likely to have the NFC's No. 2 seed secured heading into the playoffs.