As noted in my column today, the Panthers blitzed on only 15 percent of Arizona's pass plays (3 out of 20 times) in the first half of their playoff loss Saturday night.
That's way too few, obviously. Arizona's Kurt Warner picked the Panthers apart in the first half, completing 15 of 18 passes (not including a time-killing spike) for 200 yards and two TDs. By halftime, it was 27-7 Arizona, and it was basically over.
This points out the big problem in the inherent conservatism of head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac, both of whom were way too vanilla and predictable with that defensive game plan. They both should receive a ton of criticism for it.
Fox likes to only rush four defenders so he can have 7 back to defend the pass, but that just doesn't work when your 4 defenders are generating only 1 sack and hardly any hurries. (Julius Peppers was absolutely no factor in this game, and what a time for Bad Julius and Bad Jake to show up on the same night).
But here's another problem: When the Panthers did blitz in the first half, it didn't work well at all.
Here's the breakdown: On 16 of 20 times Warner dropped back to pass (one turned into a scramble and one into a sack), Carolina rushed 4. In other words, Carolina was very predictable 80 percent of the time.
Once, Carolina rushed only 3. That worked well, actually, for a seven-yard loss on a screen. It gave Arizona a different look, and should have been used more often.
Three times, Carolina blitzed, rushing either 5 or 6. One caused Warner to hurry and throw the ball away on a third down -- a success.
But the other 2 blitzes were utter failures -- Warner lofted a ball to Larry Fitzgerald, who went over Ken Lucas and Charles Godfrey to get it for 41 yards; and Warner threw over the middle to Fitzgerald on a deep crossing route and he scored on a 29-yard TD.
So just saying "Blitz all the time" isn't the answer, either -- not when your defense is as bad as the Panthers' D was for most of the season's last 7 weeks. (Arizona didn't blitz that much, either, but consistently got in Delhomme's face with 4 rushers).
The 2-pronged solution for the Panthers: More blitzes, yes, as Carolina did in the second half (too late). But also, better players -- Carolina needs a far better pass rush and at least one more cornerback to replace Ken Lucas, who I think has played his last game as a Panther after getting torched so often in the season's last couple of months.
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