Five Keys To Beating The Panthers

Posted Nov 23, 2013

John Congemi breaks down the five keys for the Dolphins to defeat the Panthers on Sunday.

This week's game against the Carolina Panthers just might be the toughest challenge of the season of this football team. I say that because Carolina comes into Sun Life Stadium with the third ranked defense in the entire league and a quarterback in Cam Newton who can not only beat you with his arm, but also with his athletism. The margin for error will be very slim for the Dolphins and it's imparitive for this team to play it's best football of the year to win. Here are some of the things that need to occur for Miami to get to 6-5 and stay in sight of the playoff race.

1) Win The Turnover Margin - The main reason why good teams stay one or two games ahead of the pack is because they don't beat themselves. Teams that lingure around the .500 mark, like the Dolphins, usually are always in the negitive when it comes to giveaways and takeaways. Miami is even for the season and yes five and five for the year, but Carolina is rolling at a 7-3 record and a whopping plus ten in the turnover margin. Quarterback Cam Newton has found a way to protect the football and not make bad decisions in the passing game. A 16 touchdowns to eight interceptions is good for Newton and the Panthers defense have a total of 14 interceptions on the season. Miami must protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the pocket and Tannehill needs to have ball security in the passing game.

2) Limit Newton's Legs - The one thing that you really can't account for is when Cam Newton escapes a pass rush and creates or extends plays with his running ability. Newton is the Panthers second leading rusher with 328 yards averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and four touchdowns on the year. He's also the hardest rusher to stop in the red zone or in short yardage situations because of his size and strenght. For the Dolphins to have success they must get to Newton early and make him move into the pass rush, not outside and into open space where he can do the most damage.

3) Ball Out Quick - Miami's pass offense was successful last week against San Diego because Tannehill was able to be decisive with his reads and the receivers gave him open looks when he was ready to deliever the football. The Carolina front seven is very quick and can apply pressure (31 sacks on the year) so getting the football out on the edge on screens, slants and timing routes should work to their advantage. It was how the Dolphins started last week, by mixing the running game with timing routes and using multiple receivers to spread the football around.

4) Win On First Down - This is a must! Miami needs to find a way to have success on first down to stay away from third and long situations. If the Dolphins can have gains of four or five yards on first and/or second down, it makes the play calling that much easier on third and short to medium. Last week Miami was only two for 10 on third down, but running back Daniel Thomas averaged 5.7 yards per carry and took some of the burden off of Tannehill and the passing game. The plan should be a good mix of run and pass on first down to keep players like defensive end Charles Johnson and Linebacker Luke Kuechly honest.

5) Field Position - Every yard counts when your facing a football team that's hot and is riding the wave of momentum like the Carolina Panthers. It will be important that players like Marcus Thigpen outplay returner Ted Ginn and punter Brandon Fields dosen't waste chances to pin Carolina's offense inside their twenty yard line when give the opportunity. Some of the plays that fans sometimes take for granted really might add up to significant chances on Sunday. It will be important for Miami to play on a short field and score touchdowns instead of settling for three point chances against Carolina's defense who only gives up 13.5 points per contest. Converting from 50 or 60 yards out is much easier that putting together a 12 play 80 yard drive against this unit and a Tannehill to Wallace connection over the top would help the effort!
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