Carolina Panthers Keys to the Game vs Los Angeles Chargers
This Sunday, the Panthers have a tough test. They will be facing a Los Angeles Chargers team that was three points away from defeating the defending Super Bowl Champions. Carolina will also be without their best player, Christian McCaffrey, for the next several weeks. So, how are they going to get their first win of the season this week? While it seems challenging, it's still entirely possible. Here are three keys to the game.
Key #1: Spread the football around on offense.
Christian McCaffrey is currently on injured reserve, which means that Mike Davis will have to step up in his place. However, the game cannot depend solely on his performance, or else it will be a very long day for the Panthers offense. Teddy Bridgewater is going to have to find a way to get the ball in the hands of his other playmakers such as Curtis Samuel, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson. Samuel has been quiet for the first two games of the season. Joe Brady stated this to address Samuel's usage: "With his speed on the field, with him being able to push the ball deep, I have to utilize him more in the pass game." The playmakers on offense can lead this team to victory, but this offense has to move efficiently and consistently in order to do so.
Key #2: Generate pressure on defense.
The Panthers defense has yet to record a sack this season. The pass rush is almost nonexistent. Considering that this team was ranked 2nd in sacks last season, this is an extreme regression. Did you think that was bad? Read this stat: The Panthers are ranked dead last in pressure rates (4.6%). Justin Herbert played well against a Chiefs defense that consists of the likes of Frank Clark and Chris Jones. If he has enough time in the pocket, he could be dangerous. This defense will have to pressure him into making uncomfortable throws before he gets in a groove with his talented receiving corps.
Key #3: Neutralize Austin Ekeler.
Stopping the run has been a huge issue for this defense so far. Leonard Fournette ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers last week. Josh Jacobs ran for 93 yards and three touchdowns in the week before that. Austin Ekeler is a very good running back who can devastate teams in both the running and passing game. In other words, he is their own version of Christian McCaffrey. If he is able to have his way with this defense in the running game, he could also be open in the passing game to make plays. He could also provide opportunities for playmakers such as Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry to hurt this defense. Stopping Ekeler is a difficult task, especially for this defense, but it must be done if the Panthers want their first win this Sunday.
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