Week 15: Carolina Panthers At San Diego Chargers
- QuarterbackCam Newton is coming off a sensational game in leading the Panthers to an upset win over the Falcons. Newton played with confidence and athleticism as he completed 23-of-35 passes for 287 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 116 yards and a score. When Newton gets off to a good start, he is difficult to slow down.The Chargers are playing out the string. Now that the pressure is off, Philip Rivers returned the team to the winner’s circle against the Steelers. Rivers completed 21-of-41 passes for 200 yards against Pittsburgh with 3 TDs and no interceptions. That kind of performance has been the exception for Rivers this year.
- OffenseRunning back DeAngelo Williams has explosive qualities. He took a short pass 53 yards for a touchdown against the Falcons and he should be able to exploit the Chargers’ defense. Wide receiver Steve Smith is still a warrior who can beat one-on-one coverage and has plenty of toughness to take a shot and hold on to the ball.The Chargers don’t have big-name running backs and while they had a decent ground game early, they are struggling at this point in the season. Danario Alexander is doing a nice job of making plays in the receiving game. He caught 7 passes for 88 yards and 2 scores against Pittsburgh. Tight end Antonio Gates can still make key catches.
- DefenseThe Panthers will play on the defensive side of the ball for the majority of the game, but mistakes cost them in the game’s most crucial moments. That’s been the pattern for Ron Rivera’s team most of the season. They have given games away in the fourth quarter that they appeared to be ready to win. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is a star on the rise and he plays with excellent effort.The Chargers have plenty of talent but have rarely played with toughness. The Chargers rank 22nd in pass defense and their coverage has just been too loose most of the season. Outside linebacker Shaun Phillips is a solid pass rusher who has seven sacks. Free safety Eric Weddle has a team-high 72 tackles and 12 passes defensed.
- Special TeamsThe Panthers have struggled to make things happen in the return game this season. They have not had a punt or kickoff return longer than 35 yards this season. Punter Brad Nortman has been a liability this season. He has a net average of 36.1 yards per punt.Nick Novak has done a solid job for the Chargers at the placekicker position since replacing veteran Nate Kaeding. Novak has made 15-of-17 FG attempts, although he is only 1-of-3 on attempts from 50 yards or longer. Punter Mike Scifres has dropped 27-of-66 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
While the Chargers played a solid game in earning the road upset over the Steelers, there’s little reason to think they can sustain that kind of execution two weeks in a row. On the other hands, the Panthers are slowly but surely moving in the right direction and head coach Ron Rivera should get a more even effort from his players than Norv Turner will get from his.