Scott Fowler

A Carolina Panthers numbers column - with a twist

Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) sacked Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in December -- one of the 50 sacks the team recorded for the season.
Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) sacked Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in December -- one of the 50 sacks the team recorded for the season. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

The Carolina Panthers always produce a thick sheaf of notes about the previous season, usually planning the release to come shortly after the Super Bowl.

While perusing those notes and a few other ones from this past season, I was struck by these seven numbers.

8 The Panthers were 8-1 last season in games decided by eight or fewer points. In fact, the team’s only regular-season loss in a one-possession game came to eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia. Carolina did lose its lone playoff game to New Orleans, 31-26, however.

6 The Panthers’ 2018 schedule will include six of its 16 games against teams that made the playoffs this past season. That’s not bad, given that four of those games were a given due to Carolina playing fellow NFC South playoff teams New Orleans and Atlanta twice apiece. The other two: difficult Pennsylvania road trips to play the Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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The Carolina Panthers view the third preseason game against tough opponent New England as a “blessing in disguise.” Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The 2018 season will actually mark the third straight year Carolina has to play a road game against the defending Super Bowl champions (they beat New England in 2017 but lost to Denver in 2016).

7 Left tackle Matt Kalil was called for a team-high seven penalties this season, according to nflpenalties.com. That’s nowhere close to leading the league, however. Seattle defensive tackle Michael Bennett, for instance, eclipsed Kalil even if you only counted one kind of penalty – Bennett jumped offside 10 times last season.

As a team, Carolina was the least-penalized team in the NFL in 2017 – which is partly good coaching and partly having a veteran team.

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The Carolina Panthers gave up only five first downs -- a franchise best -- to Chicago in October. But the Panthers offense surrendered two touchdowns itself in the Bears’ 17-3 win. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

5 This was the number of first downs the Panthers’ defense allowed in a game at Chicago on Oct. 22 – and still managed to lose, 17-3. It was the fewest number of first downs Carolina’s defense has ever allowed, but was wasted due to the worst offensive performance of the season and two Bears defensive TDs.

3 The Panthers were third in the NFL in sacks last season with 50. Only Pittsburgh and Jacksonville had more.

0 However, defensive end Charles Johnson had zero of those 50 sacks despite starting the majority of the season. That gives Johnson a total of five sacks over the past three seasons. I imagine he has played his last game in a Panthers uniform.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess (17) led the Panthers in touchdowns with eight in 2017. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

9 There were 18 players in the NFL in 2017 who scored at least nine touchdowns. However, the Panthers did not employ any of them. Wide receiver Devin Funchess led Carolina with eight TDs.

What the Panthers could use in 2018, among other things, is at least one player in TD double digits. It’s all well and good to spread the wealth, but you also need someone who absolutely scares defenses at the goal line besides quarterback Cam Newton.

So we’ve come almost to the end of this column.

Just one more thing.

Scan the list of stats one more time. Let your mind imagine the 1980s.

And please, Jenny, don’t change your number.

Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140, @scott_fowler

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