One thing that Carolina can do with its extra time, along with
rest/rehab and preliminary scouting on Philly/San Francisco/Green Bay,
is dig in and self scout.
Carolina did this effectively in the middle of 2012 by re-evaluating
its offensive goals and adjusting tendencies. Ron Rivera, specifically,
has the ability (and apparently from last year, the history) to really
hunker down with some tape and see how he'd stop his offense, and
That's not the smallest feat - and Cam Newton's high throws last week
don't help. Blamed on heightened emotions, it's something to watch, but
it's as repeatedly fixable as it is repeatable. Schematically, a number
of things were exploitable that just didn't end up working. Carolina
has to start finding the big play on offense, and it has to regain some
run consistency to help give them those crazy 2nd and 2 deep shots. It
lets you take some chances instead of consistently having to try to set
up makeable third downs.
They'll have to find a way to get Brandon LaFell re-involved, while
spreading the ball and making the best of a potentially ailing Steve
Smith. They have to keep Newton in a comfort zone, which while his
bounce-back mentally has gotten better, he has to stay light and ready.
The team can't afford to waste a quarter and a turnover waiting for his
butterflies to go away. But with that said, you also get the luxury of
having time to talk to those players more in-depth.
Defensively, outside of the issues that came up because of the first
Saints game and Dolphins game (and that awful Roddy White TD where
Quentin Mikell didn't get deep enough), the defense has to hunker down
and get on its run fits, and relateldly, gap inegrity. Carolina hsn't a
bad run team at all, but thanks to a couple of busted runs, it's got a
higher yards/attempt than you might want. Carolina's a team that can
and should dominate the run, a team that should discourage a team from
even trying to run. But those occasional blips can cause them to let a
team occasionally establish the run on them.
This is an advantage that Carolina has that the teams they'll play
won't have. Their focus is completely on their upcoming opponent, not
abstract ideas like reflection on how they've done and what they can do
to change the parts that didn't work.