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‘Gamers & Lamers’ in Panthers Vs. Texans Week 15 Game: Fan’s Analysis
In Week 15 the up-and-down Carolina Panthers pulled off their biggest win of the season, a 28-13 road victory over the playoff-bound 10-3 Houston Texans. (Note: I am purposefully not going to mention Houston was missing former Pro Bowlers QB Matt Schaub, WR Andre Johnson, and DE Mario Williams just to let Panthers fans enjoy the win.) The Carolina offense was productive, the defense was stout, and the special teams units once again gave up potentially disastrous kick and punt returns.
While the NFL post game shows cover the scoring plays, I look for the less visible but equally crucial plays that sustain drives, spring the big plays, or change momentum. Here is my analysis, as a Panthers fan, of these key plays, both good ("The Gamers") and bad ("The Lamers") that took place during Carolina's Week 15 road victory against the Houston Texans.
14:26, Jordan Senn, LB - Gamer. Score tied 0-0, HOU ball on HOU 21. On the second play from scrimmage, Texans running back Arian Foster took a handoff off left tackle. LB Jordan Senn hit Foster from the right and punched the ball loose. The fumble was recovered by James Anderson and set the Panthers offense up for Steve Smith touchdown reception four plays later, putting the Panthers up 7-0 early.
2:48, RJ Stanford, CB - Gamer. Panthers lead 7-0, HOU ball on CAR 34. The Texans faced a 3rd-and-5 on the verge of field goal range. Carolina went zone as Arian Foster lined up split to QB TJ Yates right then came in motion to create a trips left. RJ Stanford had coverage in the left flat and ended up one-on-one against Foster as he caught a short pass. Stanford broke quickly on the play, dropping Foster after a 3-yard gain and forcing a 4th down. Houston kicker Neil Rackers missed the subsequent 49-yard field goal, preserving the Panthers seven-point lead.
1:30, Jonathan Stewart, RB - Gamer. Panthers lead 7-0, CAR ball on CAR 34. Facing a long 3rd-and-15 Cam Newton lined up in shotgun with Jonathan Stewart to his right. LB Brian Cushing came untouched through the middle of the line on a blitz. Stewart picked up the blitzing Cushing with a nice block, giving Cam Newton enough time to hit Steve Smith on a 19-yard deep slant, extending a drive that would end with a Jeremy Shockey touchdown reception for a 14-0 lead.
6:12, Jordan Senn, LB - Gamer. Panthers lead 14-0, HOU ball on CAR 43. Houston was sustaining a strong 7-play drive and nearing scoring position. On 3rd-and-13 the Panthers went zone and Jordan Senn sat down in the area in front of the route being run by WR Kevin Walter. Yates fired a pass to Walter which Senn read perfectly and intercepted the pass, returning it 21 yards to the Houston 48. The offense capitalized on the good field position by converting the next drive into a touchdown.
:59, Rob Chudzinski, Off. Coord - Gamer. Panthers lead 14-0, CAR ball on HOU 7. Nearing the end zone the Panthers went into a gimmicky "pistol" formation with Cam Newton three yards behind the line of scrimmage with Richie Brockel to Newton's right. Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Steward were behind Newton in an I-formation. Center Ryan Kalil unexpectedly snapped the ball before while the offensive linemen still standing. Newton took the snap and handed it to Brockel between his legs from behind. Newton, Stewart, and Williams went right as Brockel broke left. Confused Texans defenders were slow to react and find the ball as Brockel ran it in for a score and a 21-0 Panthers lead. Rob Chudzinski is one of the most innovative offensive coordinators in the NFL and has brought a flair to the Panthers that had been long missing in Carolina. Earlier on this drive Chudzinski called a wildcat formation with Armanti Edwards at QB. Rather than a predictable wildcat run, Chudzinski dialed up a pass for Edwards who connected with Steve Smith for an 11-yard gain. As a Panthers fan, I cannot overstate how much I appreciate Rob Chudzinski's innovative, entertaining game plans.
13:12, Punt Coverage Unit - Lamers. Panthers lead 21-0, Carolina punts from CAR 23. Carolina started the second half with an uninspired three-and-out. Jason Baker punted a nice 54-yard punt, but the punt coverage was terrible as Jacoby Jones returned the ball 42 yards to the Carolina 35. The poor punt coverage set Houston up for a field goal as they trimmed the Panthers lead to 21-3.
3:11, Jordan Pugh, S - Gamer. Panthers lead 21-3, HOU ball on CAR 16. Houston was chewing up yardage on a long 10-play, 75-yard drive. On 2nd-and-8 in the red zone safety Jordan Pugh was matched up in man coverage on TE Joel Dressen. Pugh's coverage was tight, forcing TJ Yates to overthrow Dressen in the back corner of the end zone. Houston failed to convert on third down and had to settle for a short field goal, cutting the Carolina lead to 21-6.
9:59, Jordan Gross, T & Geoff Hangartner, G - Gamers. Panthers lead 21-13, CAR ball on HOU 24. The Panthers had given up 13 unanswered second half points and momentum had swung to the Texans. After a big 26-yard reception by Jeremy Shockey the Panthers had the ball near the red zone. On 1st-and-10 Cam Newton lined up under center with DeAngelo Williams deep in the backfield. Williams took a handoff through a gaping hole off the left guard and zipped untouched into the end zone on a 24-yard touchdown. Left tackle Jordan Gross sealed DE Antonio Smith as right guard Geoff Hangartner pulled through the hole and pancaked S Glover Quinn. Beautiful blocking and a burst of speed from DeAngelo Williams shifted momentum back to the Panthers who now led 28-13.
7:34, James Anderson, LB - Gamer. Panthers lead 28-13, HOU ball on CAR 9. After another special teams blunder - this time the kickoff coverage team giving up a 50-yard return - the Texans were quickly knocking on the door to answer the Panthers last touchdown. On 3rd-and-9 TJ Yates scrambled right and tried to squeeze a pass to Jacoby Jones in the end zone. The Panthers were in zone coverage and James Anderson broke in front of Jones, picking off the pass in the end zone and taking points off the board for the Texans.
6:00, Cam Newton, QB - Gamer. Panthers lead 28-13, CAR ball on CAR 5. Following the James Anderson pick, the Panthers faced a 3rd-and-8 from deep within their own territory. Cam Newton went shotgun and ran a draw play to the left. Newton found a hole and shrugged off the initial contact to lunge for eight yards and a first down. Carolina never gave up the ball following this key third down conversion, extending the final drive another 10 plays until the offense lined up in victory formation and Cam Newton took a kneel-down on the game's final snap.
Carolina now stands at 5-9 and has won three of its last four games. With a Christmas Eve home game coming up against the struggling 4-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a sixth victory on the season is more than possible. While the 2011 season will end without a playoff birth, Panthers fans like me see the momentum the team has right now and cross our fingers for a healthy defense in 2012, a few solid draft picks, and better special teams play and the sky is the limit.
Andrew Sweat is a North Carolina resident and loyal Panthers fan. More from this author:
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