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Panthers too conservative on deep ball

9/9/2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera didn't hesitate when asked if his offense was too conservative based on only three pass attempts for more than 10 yards in Sunday's 12-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

"Yes," Carolina's third-year coach said on Monday.

Give him credit for being honest.

One of quarterback Cam Newton's strengths is his ability to throw the deep pass -- and into tight quarters. Before Sunday he'd had only one game with fewer attempts of 10 yards or more.

On passes of at least 10 yards last season Newton ranked:

  • Eighth in completions with 99.

  • Ninth in completion percentage at 51 percent.

  • Tied for 19th in touchdowns with nine.

  • 10th in total quarterback rating at 95.5.

  • Tied for seventh in fewest interceptions with five.

What happened on Sunday can't become a trend, and Rivera understands that.

"There are some things that need to be looked at on both sides in terms of getting the ball vertical," Rivera said as he looked ahead to Sunday's game at Buffalo. "We looked through it. We talked about it and those will be the things that we look to do. We have to create more of those opportunities.

"Some of it too is the quarterback being able to pull the ball down and scramble a couple of times. We are aware of what needs to be done.''

You can't totally blame Newton for the lack of deep passes. For the most part he took what the offense gave him and did what new offensive coordinator Mike Shula asked him to do. His quarterback rating of 97.2 was well above his average of 86.2 a year ago.

You also can't argue with Carolina's success on the ground using a more traditional run formation than the past two seasons. The Panthers rushed for 134 yards on 26 attempts, an average of 5.1 yards a carry that will win you most games.

If it weren't for a fourth-quarter fumble by running back DeAngelo Williams at the Seattle 8-yard line, the outcome may have been different and the lack of deep passes might not seem so glaring.

But to put more points on the board and take advantage of Newton's strength the Panthers have to take more chances downfield, and they have to take advantage of their quarterback's ability to run.

If that means adding more of the read option that Shula said before the season he was getting away from, then it needs to be re-inserted. Rivera said the Panthers will look at all options.

"We do have to throw the ball a little more," he said. "We're going to continue to work on those things to get that balance back to the offense."