For an offensive coordinator who prides himself on putting his players in advantageous one-on-one matchups, Joe Brady and the Panthers haven’t exploited a defense in weeks.
Defensive coordinators Mike Zimmer (Vikings) and Patrick Graham (Giants) smothered Carolina by attacking their protections, doubling receiver DJ Moore and daring Brady to consistently call runs.
It’s been a problematic few weeks. Sam Darnold was pulled in the fourth quarter versus the Giants while Carolina only trailed by 12. That led to questions about Darnold’s mechanics. His eyes aren’t following his feet and he’s playing too quickly, resulting in a stagnant offense that opposing defenses aren’t fearing.
“The most important thing is we have to get into a rhythm on drives,” Brady said. “In order for us to be the offense we want to have, we have to stay on the field. Our third-down conversions the last few weeks have been unacceptable.”
Versus Minnesota and New York, the Panthers converted 4 of 27 third downs — 15%. According to Football Outsiders, the Bills (21%) Buccaneers (19.8%) have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than Carolina does converting a third down.
Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees presents a similar challenge for Brady. His 50 years of NFL coaching makes Pees an expert at disrupting offenses. He won Super Bowls with the Patriots and Ravens before coaching in Tennessee and Atlanta.
But injuries are hindering Pees’ defense. A thin Falcons secondary could bode well for a Panthers’ bounce back. Moore and Robby Anderson must dominate their matchups. Brady said it’s on him to set those up.
“I’ve obviously got to do a better job of finding those matchups,” he said. “Moving those guys around and figuring out who the matchups should be. If plays are not being made, then I got to do a better job with it.”
Brady acknowledged his recent frustrations. Calling plays for an offense that has scored two touchdowns over its previous 26 drives should infuriate anyone involved.