NFL Coroner's Report: Carolina Panthers Autopsy
Week 13 has come and gone, and a couple more cadavers were dropped off at the mortuary.
The Chiefs were merely a prelude to the slew of departed souls who would be making their way onto my concrete slabs.
They've been inevitably tagged and bagged; now it's merely time to examine what caused these wretched souls to fulfill the destiny that their mortal coil demands.
Subject: Carolina Panthers
Date of Death: December 2, 2012
Record at Time of Death: 3-9
Contributing Factors to Death
1. Too Many Close Losses
Under Aaron Rodgers, the 2008 Green Bay Packers went 6-10, and many of media vultures (read: ESPN) were quick to crow about Brett Favre, and how Green Bay would be 16-0 and world champions had they not alienated the gunslinger.
Rodgers had an impressive year (93.8 rating), but Green Bay just lost close games. Seven of their 10 losses were by four points or less. One more touchdown pass for Mr. Discount Double Check in each, and Green Bay would have been 13-3.
But as Jim Mora would tell ya, "coulda, woulda, shoulda...."
Carolina has the same problem: seven of their nine losses were by six points or less. If Cam Newton adds another leap-of-faith touchdown by throwing himself across that goal line in each game, Carolina would be 10-2, with Atlanta getting a firm view of their hindquarters on the totem pole.
Check out this slate: lost 16-10 to Tampa, 30-28 to Atlanta, 16-12 to Seattle, 19-14 to Dallas, 23-22 to Chicago, 27-21 to Tampa again, and 27-21 to an emotionally-charged Kansas City.
Of that group, Atlanta, Seattle, and Chicago would be in the playoffs today, and Tampa's on the doorstep, waiting for somebody to slip. Carolina nearly beat these teams.
But again, coulda, woulda shoulda....
2. Promising Running Game Doesn't Deliver
So you have Cam Newton, who is essentially the evolutionary Daunte Culpepper. He's gifted with a deadly running back tandem in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. This offseason, they poach Mike Tolbert from San Diego, to give Newton the backfield blocker/dumpoff target of any quarterback's dreams.
How can this possibly fail?
A year ago, Williams and Stewart combined for 1,597 yards on 297 carries (5.37 YPA) and 11 touchdowns, while Newton added 14 scores on 706 carries.
And you're adding Tolbert to boot? Can't fail, right?
But it has. Inconsistencies and injuries on the offensive line (namely to Ryan Kalil) have gutted the continuity needed to a high caliber running game work.
Stewart's battled his own injuries, missing three games, and he and Williams have seen a sharp downturn. Combined, they, thus far, have 695 yards on 196 carries (3.55 YPA) and four touchdowns.
Newton has six rushing touchdowns himself on a healthy 5.5 YPA average, but he's also been sacked 30 times. The general ineffectiveness of the offense means less goal line dives, and thus less touchdowns, for Super-Cam and the team alike.
3. Don't Make the Most of Opportunities
With the running woes, Newton's had to shoulder more of the load in his sophomore season. While his quarterback rating is healthy (85.8), he's running an offense that's turned the ball over 18 times (10 INT, eight lost fumbles), and there's a statistic that illustrates how their nine losses came to pass.
According to ColdHardFootballFacts.com, the Panthers are 18th in the league in offensive yards (4,123), ahead of playoff contenders like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Chicago.
But here's where it turns sour: Carolina is the seventh worst team in the stat of "scoreability": offensive yards divided by actual points scored.
It's simple: the lower your number, the better you are at cashing in on chances. New England leads the league in this regard, with 11.9 yards per point scored (in other words, they get a touchdown every 83.3 yards gained).
Carolina's far more dismal: their scoreability rating is 17.54, meaning they score a touchdown every 122.8 yards gained.