3 Ways The Patriots Can Beat The Panthers

The Patriots are on heading into the second game of a critical 6 game stretch this season. They’re coming off a great win against the Chargers where the essentially shut down one of the leagues best passing attacks and handled the second best pass defense in the league. This weekend the Pats will be going up against yet another really tough defense in the Carolina Panthers. But while the defensive side of the ball will be a handful, the same can’t be said about the Panthers offense. Here’s 3 ways the Patriots can beat the Panthers on Sunday.

Make Darnold See Ghosts:

***Quick disclaimer, if Darnold ends up sitting and PJ Walker plays, forget everything I’m about to say. And honestly, forget the Panthers offense because PJ Walker isn’t beating Bill Belichick this Sunday.***

The Carolina Panthers do not have a good offense anymore. Sam Darnold started the season pretty good but has devolved back to the Jets guy we all know and love. Darnold currently ranks 29th in completion percentage, 27th in yards per game, 24th in QBR, 30th in passer rating and tied for 3rd in INT’s. I could get into the more analytic stats, but you get the point. Sam Darnold tricked the league into thinking he was good to start the season, but we see the real player through the fog now.

Look at the difference in the start of the season to where he is now. The first 4 games Darnold was over 250 yards passing, but recently? He hasn’t cracked 200  in the last 4 games while throwing 5 picks in that same span.

Schedule & Game Results Table
Offe Offe
Week Opp PassY RushY
1 W New York Jets 270 111
2 W New Orleans Saints 294 89
3 W Houston Texans 290 117
4 L Dallas Cowboys 266 113
5 L Philadelphia Eagles 158 109
6 L Minnesota Vikings 188 118
7 L New York Giants 117 56
8 W Atlanta Falcons 129 203
The Patriots should be able to tee of on Darnold and make him, once again, see ghosts like he did in New York. He has also been sacked 21 times this year which is only 5 back of league leading Justin Fields. This defense should have no issue wreaking havoc on Darnold all day and that’s Step 1 of coming out with a W.

Lock Down D.J. Moore:

D.J Moore is the only thing that scares you on this Panthers offense. Here’s where Moore ranks among his fellow WR’s this season:
  • 5th in Completions
  • 2nd in Targets
  • 7th in Yards
  • T-4th in 20+ Yard Catches
  • 3rd in 1st Down Receptions
  • 7th in YAC

If you can stop Moore from having a big day, the chances of you winning are very high. Assuming JC Jackson plays (he missed practice Wednesday with an illness) you have to assume he gets the first crack at Moore. I’d even expect some help over the top as well to really shut him down. Other than Moore, the Panthers really only have Christian McCaffrey and Robby Anderson to do anything with. With McCaffrey likely continuing to be limited all week, his availability is in question. And even if he does play, this is still his first week back from injury so I wouldn’t expect eye popping numbers. And Anderson? Well, Belichick has handled him every time he’s faced him.

These first two step sort of work in tandem with each other. If you can get to Darnold and make him uncomfortable all day, that’ll go a long way in containing Moore. It’ll also prevent McCaffrey from making an impact and Anderson as well. I am trying to sugar coat this as much as I can, but this Panthers offense does not scare you one bit.

Run The Ball Successfully:

Carolina’s defense comes as advertised: pretty good. When it comes to containing opposing quarterbacks, they’ve been as consistent as any team in the league. They’ve only give up 200+ yard twice on the year and one of those games was an OT loss to the Vikings and they just shut down Matt Ryan whose been having a pretty good year statistically speaking.

Schedule & Game Results Table
Defe Defe
Week Opp PassY RushY
1 W New York Jets 207 45
2 W New Orleans Saints 80 48
3 W Houston Texans 151 42
4 L Dallas Cowboys 188 245
5 L Philadelphia Eagles 182 91
6 L Minnesota Vikings 373 198
7 L New York Giants 199 103
8 W Atlanta Falcons 131 82
Where I think Josh McDaniels can attack this defense in with the running game. As you can see, to start the year, the Panthers were shutting down any and everybody. But after the terrible game against the Cowboys, their rush defense has been wildly up and down.
I see this gameplan being similar to the one you just had against the Chargers. Run the ball to open up the pass. McDaniels got away from that a bit early on, but after the half, he settled back in and the Pats dominated time of possession. Run the ball to loosen up the defense a bit, take shots when you can and get first downs. The Panthers are allowing the third best net yard per attempt (5.5) on the year, so it’s going to be a short passing game Sunday. They’re also have an aggressive defense, so keeping Mac upright is a must. But if you can have success with the run, much like the LA game, you’ll likely win.


The Patriots should win this game. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Yes, the Panthers have a good defense, but their offense is so putrid that a loss here would be unacceptable. While Carolina’s D is good, it’s not ‘shutdown’ good. If you come in with the right gameplan, this game shouldn’t be as difficult as some may think. Shut down the offense, run the ball and don’t let Gilmore pick you off. Do all those things, and you’ll get another critical win.

Side note: Patriots fans shouldn’t have to worry about McDaniels falling back into his dependence on screen passes. The Panthers are the best in the league at defending the screen allowing only 3.7 yards per screen pass. So rest easy Patriots Nation.

(Featured Photo Credit www.panthers.com)

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Mike Sullivan (@msully5433 on Twitter)

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