Playing under the bright lights of Monday Night Football is unfamiliar territory for the Carolina Panthers. It’s fair to say that the league’s schedule makers penciled them in to showcase No. 1 pick Bryce Young. Whatever the case, the Panthers have an opportunity to bounce back from their season-opening loss to the Falcons.
Here are a few keys to a Panthers’ win in prime time:
Test The Secondary
Carolina could not throw downfield in Week 1, because their receivers struggled to gain separation and the Falcons’ secondary shrunk the field by extending their coverage. Knowing that the Panthers don’t have a deep threat to keep opposing defenses honest, the Falcons took advantage, swarmed and contained the receivers.
The Saints’ defense, however, provides Bryce Young and the offense chances to take some shots downfield. New Orleans’ defense is aggressive, and the opportunity to take advantage of it is there for the Panthers.
Carolina could modify this and make it a deep pass instead of a run. For example, they could put Hayden Hurst in motion to the left as if he’s adding extra protection to the weak side for Chubba Hubbard. Young fakes a handoff and looks for Jonathan Mingo (or Laviska Shenault) at the slot , running a deep slant instead of blocking. While there may be opportunities to throw downfield, it shouldn’t be a hunt for opportunities; which brings me to.
Taking Whatever The Defense Gives
Despite throwing two interceptions, Young did some good things offensively. While he couldn’t throw downfield, he utilized dig routes and outs to move the chains. The reason? Spacing and solid o-line protection. In this matchup, the Panthers could use the Saints’ aggressive defense against itself to create space.
The Saints look as if they are blitzing. As the play unfolds and at the five-second mark, look at the space. Granted, Ryan Tannehill was indecisive here but he had options. In this situation, Young could gain yardage or he could pass if the opportunity presents itself.
Carolina’s 17 turnovers against the Falcons was horrid. What’s worse is while the defense was solid at first, they didn’t force a turnover for the entire game. Against the Saints, the Panthers’ defense has to start and stay aggressive.
Look at the Panthers’ opening stand on defense. Pass swatted. The next play, was a sack. Carolina brought pressure early and held up just fine down the stretch. With a couple of forced turnovers, the outcome of the game could have been different. Against the Saints, Carolina should rush often. They should also mix in some stunts to keep upfront pressure going.