Saying Carolina’s offense was terrific on Monday night against Miami – or any other synonyms you’d like to use – would be an understatement. The Panthers racked up an unseen (and franchise record) 548 yards of offense, scored six touchdowns and generally did whatever they liked to a fairly hapless Dolphins defense.
But as for how the Miami offense, ranked at or near the bottom by most measures coming into the game, fared against the Panthers top-ranked defense?
Well, not so good.
“They were just an overall good defense,” tackle Laremy Tunsil said, “and they had a good day.”
The final score will show that the Dolphins scored 21 to the Panthers’ 45, but that’s fairly misleading, as one of Miami’s scores came on a freak big play and another came in garbage time after the game was well decided. Tunsil and the rest of the Miami offensive line struggled to create many holes against Carolina’s ferocious D-line.
The Dolphins finished with 313 yards, which is more than the average 274 the Panthers were allowing per game prior to Monday, but again, that number comes with a caveat. Many of those yards came late, when the game was not only out of reach but a number of key starters, including linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, were out of the game.
Enough of the caveats, though. The raw numbers are ugly for Miami fans, but a boon for the thousands of Panthers supporters who endured the cold inside Bank of America Stadium Monday night.
Start with the running game. Miami’s Damien Williams had nine carries for 19 yards, 11 of which came on one run. Take that away, and he had eight rushes for eight yards. Things were equally rough for his counterpart Kenyan Drake, even though Drake did break off a 66-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter. Take away that run, where the Panthers had poor run fits and were expecting an inside zone run instead of an outside play, and Drake had six carries for 16 yards.
“You’ve obviously got to give credit to them,” Drake said. “They were able to neutralize our game plan.”
Things were marginally better from quarterback Jay Cutler and the passing attack, as he threw for 213 yards and two scores, but only marginally. He also had an interception – the third this season by Kuechly – and barely 200 yards in the air. And on top of that, the interception came deep in Miami territory and set Carolina up to score right before halftime, a 14-point swing that proved to be insurmountable.
“Those two guys inside (Kuechly and Davis) are heck of a football players,” Cutler said. “They know tendencies, they watch eyes ... they’re Pro Bowlers for a reason.”
So Miami’s offense was poor, as it has been for most of this season, but those struggles were more a product of Carolina’s defensive suffocation than Miami’s own offensive ineptitude.
Now the trick for this Panthers defense is doing the same thing against a more potent offense.