NFL: Panthers need to turn gaudy stats into points

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Associated Press
CHARLOTTE— Carolina has put up a gaudy 952 yards of total offense in two games, yet the Panthers are 0-2 heading into this week’s game against Jacksonville.
The question facing rookie quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers is how they start turning those yards into points. They rank second in the league in total offense behind only Tom Brady’s New England Patriots, but have scored only 41 points.
“I think the big thing is when we get down to the red zone we have to put it in the end zone,” coach Ron Rivera said.
Otherwise, the Panthers could end up being the most exciting winless team in NFL history.
Carolina marched inside the Green Bay 20-yard line six times on Sunday and came away with only two touchdowns. On almost every play in the red zone, the Panthers either threw the ball or had Newton run it.
Rarely have the Panthers given the ball to their running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, who became the first duo to rush for 1,110 yards each in a season in 2008. But so far this season, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski has not called their numbers very often; they have combined for just 74 yards on 30 carries this season.
And they’ve been almost non-existent in the red zone.
Newton, who has thrown for 422 and 432 yards in the team’s first two games, respectively, has three touchdown passes and has both of the team’s rushing touchdowns.
Offensive tackle Jordan Gross said he’d like to see the Panthers be a little more diverse.
“We get down inside the 15 and we throw it every time,” Gross said. “I mean Cam scored on that one QB keeper to the right (against Green Bay), but you know I’d like to have 50 percent of those (plays) be runs. And I don’t think coach Chud is trusting us to get it done right now.
“I don’t think anybody in this organization wants us to rush for under 100 and throw for over 400 every week, especially without points to back it up. We’ve got to do better on the ground.”
Gross said the offensive line heard about their poor run blocking during team meetings on Monday.
Rivera said it would help if the Panthers could run the ball more in the red zone, but said that will come with time.
“I’d be concerned if we weren’t throwing for about 400 yards a game,” Rivera said. “I really would be, but since we’re converting and making plays downfield and throwing the ball it’s just a matter of time. It’s going to happen and when it does it should pop. When it does the run game will be solid. I just know it’s a matter of time.”
Williams, who ran for a team-record 1,515 yards in 2007, is willing to be patient.
“It’s not frustrating as long as you are winning,” Williams said. “It’s just when you don’t win, that’s when it’s frustrating. But we’re going to keep chipping at this thing. I believe in the system. Whether we run it or pass it, again like I said, I just want to win.”
Wide receiver Steve Smith doesn’t seem to mind the change to an aerial attack. He’s leading the NFL in receiving yards with 334 through two games.
When asked if he thinks the team needs to run more, Smith said, “You’re barking up the wrong tree.”
Smith said this is the offense, one that puts emphasis on the passing game.
“The offense of years past, you guys asked me in years past if I should be more involved and I would say yes. I’m involved,” Smith said. “I had some good blocks and ran some routes. This offense is a chunk play offense. It’s going to pass first, run second. That’s who we are. We’re going to keep doing that.
“It’s been one of the best passing games ever stepped on this field. It hasn’t been this good in a long time. We have room to improve and we will improve.”