Bears-Panthers preview – Panthers ball
October 27, 2012, 1:37 pm
If something seems to be too good to be true, it often painfully is, particularly in apparent sports mismatches. USA vs. USSR hockey 1980. Michigan-Appalachian State. Tyson-Douglas.
Bears 2012 defense vs. 2012 Cam Newton.
The Bears field the NFL’s best scoring defense, both at preventing other people’s (13 points per game, seven or fewer in three of six games) and doing it themselves (five defensive TDs). The Carolina Panthers are 28th in scoring.
No team has taken the ball away from opposing offenses more than the Bears (21). Only four teams have a worse turnover ratio than the Panthers’ minus-6
Whither the run?
The thing the Panthers purport and are built to do best is run the ball. But they have match the millions invested in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams with anything resembling a coherent offensive philosophy or even game plans.
Newton has taken the heaviest criticism for offensive failures. But in the five-point loss to Dallas last Sunday, Panthers running backs carried a total of 15 times, even with Carolina leading through most of the fourth quarter.
In the four-point loss to Seattle, Carolina’s three running backs had a total of 11 carries in game where the Panthers took a lead early in the third quarter.
Curiously, the Panthers see to be in some sort of denial.
“For the most part, we’ve handed the ball off an awful lot to those two guys [Stewart and Williams],”said coach Ron Rivera. “I think what we do people don’t get as well. A lot of the things we did last year we had success with and this year and people have changed and adapted to what we do, and we’re trying to adapt as well, so we stay a step ahead.
“We’ve had some things we’ve struggled with, obviously, and there are some things we want to get back to.”
If the Panthers move to get back to their run game, the Bears will be waiting. They are second in run defense (71.3 yards per game), which has forced teams to become one-dimensional, and that has led to turnovers.
Smith wild card
The Panthers may follow form and come at the Bears primarily with one weapon that has done severe damage to Chicago in the past: wide receiver Steve Smith.
Smith has caught 34 passes in three games against the Bears, beginning with the 2005 regular season, the 2005 divisional playoff and finally last season.
“He's a smaller guy but he plays big,” said cornerback Charles Tillman, who won his matchup against Detroit’s Calvin Johnson last Monday but is likely to have duties other than Smith, expected to be shadowed by Tim Jennings. “He's a nightmare to defenses, and this will be another good matchup for this defense.”
But the Bears won two of those three games, and Rivera was the Bears’ defensive coordinator in the first two. The defense would be more than fine with Smith getting his 11 or so catches; they’ll take the win.
“Every coverage has been tried against him,” said coach Lovie Smith. “But you have to have a plan for him, and we do.”
Tags: Steve Smith
, Julius Peppers
, carolina panthers
, Chicago Bears
, Lance Briggs
, Charles Tillman
, Brian Urlacher
, cam newton
, Jonathan Stewart