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Saturday, December 22, 2007

V/S Dallas 12/22

In recent weeks, the Dallas defense has struggled up the middle, and that's been key to their recent struggles. Losing against Philadelphia and nearly losing to Detroit has shown some chinks in the armor that Carolina can exploit.

Detroit employed a spread attack that could still hit up the middle - exposing the over-rated Terrance Newman and Anthony Henry combo and taking them out of 3-4 personnel, leaving 6 blockers on 6 defenders. As well, it left limited-range safety Roy Williams with more responsibility. Williams won't be dressing for this game, which is undoubtedly an advantage for Carolina.

As well, a Detroit team that came into the game last in the league in rushing put up 152 yards against Dallas, and 39 points overall. Dallas is still #2 in the league in run defense, but gave up 6.5, 5.4 and 5.0 yards per carry in their last three games.

Most 3-4 teams are two-gap - play your man, go playside to flow toward the ball and take up space - as opposed to attacking one gap. Because of Dallas' move to a one gap 3-4 this year, they became much more attacking - it also has the propensity to leave holes, missed assignments become bigger, and the size of the defense becomes less advantageous. As well, the Cowboys aren't that big up front. If Carolina was more physical, for instance, this would be much more viable. Nonetheless, getting them into a four-man front and making them defend the run from it would be a win, situationally, and the Cowboys just aren't made for it. Demarcus Ware is too small to go against an NFL tackle from end, and Marcus Spears is too big to be effective rushing outside.

As well, the 3 WR attack would allow for the team to keep a TE in, still leaving the option of 7 blockers if the Cowboys did try to bunch back up. The downside will likely be Carolina having that much success from 3 WR, given that they've only had one productive receiver- Steve Smith. Drew Carter likely starts this week, and Ryne Robinson and Dwayne Jarrett gives some different looks, but there's not a lot of consistency here. The Panthers aren't as fluent in the spread formations as the Lions or Eagles.

Of course, doing this also assumes a few things of the Panthers- execution, namely. Being able to block Ware and cover Owens, Witten. Staying in the game and fighting it to the end. It wouldn't hurt to have some help from Romo getting pain in his thumb, or just getting a few good hits on him. Nonetheless, the Panthers can hit the Cowboys where they're vulnerable.
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