Panthers seek to boost results after underwhelming games
BY STEVE REED
Thursday, September 21, 2017
CHARLOTTE — The Panthers’ defense is doing its part.
Now quarterback Cam Newton and offense hopes to start pulling its weight as Carolina prepares to host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Carolina’s offense has managed just two touchdowns and settled for six field goals in two games. Newton has overthrown two open receivers for easy TDs. In five trips inside of Bills’ territory last Sunday, the Panthers came away with just nine points.
“We’ve got to score touchdowns,” Newton said. “You don’t need no football manual to know that. We have to do our job. And I believe we will.”
On the bright side, the Panthers are 2-0 largely behind the play of the NFL’s top-ranked defense, which limited both San Francisco and Buffalo to three points.
The Panthers will look to increase scoring production without one of their best red zone producers in tight end Greg Olsen, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a broken foot.
Olsen is eligible to return to action Nov. 26.
For now the Panthers will lean more heavily on backup tight end Ed Dickson, who hasn’t been a big part of the Carolina passing game in recent years but caught 54 passes for the Baltimore Ravens in 2011.
Dickson has been on some pretty good defensive-led teams in Baltimore, but said this Carolina defense is “scary.”
“As an offense we have to do what we can to help them out,” Dickson said.
If there is ever a week for the Panthers to get back on track it could be this one.
The Saints rank last in the league in defense and surrendered 36 points to the New England Patriots last week.
Dickson believes the Panthers have been very close to blowing games wide open but just missed on a few plays.
In the season opener Newton overthrew Dickson, who was running wide open in the secondary in what would have been an easy touchdown.
Newton overthrew Christian McCaffrey for another potential score against Buffalo and a Bills defender dislodged the ball from Kelvin Benjamin’s chest with a vicious hit in the end zone to prevent another touchdown.
“If we score another two touchdowns it’s a blowout and we’re talking about something else,” Dickson said. “So we can’t panic. We just have to complete some of those plays. We will. We are still growing as an offense.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said it’s a case of missed opportunities.
“We’ve been in position to score and Cam has made the right decisions and made the right reads,” Rivera said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting your rhythm, getting yourself in tune and putting the ball on the spot where it needs to be.”
Part of the problem last week was pass protection.
The Panthers were without two-time All-Pro center Ryan Kalil who missed the game with neck soreness, and his younger brother Matt Kalil struggled at left tackle.
The younger Kalil allowed blockers around the edge, not used to the deep drops that Newton regularly takes in the pocket.
In essence, Kalil was leading the pass rusher right into Newton rather than directing him around the QB.
Newton was sacked times, although not all were on Kalil.
Rivera said Kalil, who joined the team this year as a free agent, will learn from that the more he plays with Newton.