Tale Of The Tape: Carolina Panthers At Cincinnati Bengals
- QuarterbackThe Panthers appeared to be in deep distress after they fell behind to the Bears 21-7 in the first half, but Cam Newton was not about to accept defeat even though the Panthers had turned the ball over to Chicago three times. Despite lacking his trademark mobility, Newton brought the Panthers back with a sharp passing performance that included a game-winning TD pass to tight end Greg Olsen.The Bengals are going to attack the weak spots of the defense, and Marvin Lewis will not hesitate when it comes to letting Andy Dalton probe the secondary. Dalton may not have a fearsome reputation because of past weaknesses exposed in the postseason, but he is off to a fine start. He reads the defense well and he will not try to force the ball into coverage.
- OffenseThe Panthers will not come close to operating at peak efficiency until running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are healthy again and contributing. Backup Darrin Reaves had 35 yards against the Bears, and he is quite limited. Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is talented but makes too many mistakes. Olsen is the Panthers’ top receiver when the game is on the line.The Bengals can cause a lot of problems for nearly every opponent with their two-head running attack. Giovanni Bernard has plenty of speed and can burst through any hole that his offensive line gives him, while Jeremy Hill is a fine complementary back. Wide receiver A.J. Green has game-breaking speed and razor-sharp moves, and Mohamed Sanu can get open and make key plays.
- DefenseThe Panthers got pushed around in the first half against the Bears, but they stood up for themselves and played decisively in the second half despite their personnel deficiencies. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly had 15 tackles against Chicago and was outstanding once again, but Antoine Cason forced a key fumble late in the fourth quarter and defensive lineman Kawaan Short recovered that fumble and a key sack.The Bengals are not among the leaders in yardage allowed, but it’s very difficult to move the ball against them and put it in the endzone. They are large, nasty and very physical, and will punish opposing receivers who come across the middle. Geno Atkins and Domata Peko are solid in the middle of the defensive line, and defensive end Carlos Dunlap can punish opposing quarterbacks.
- Special TeamsThe Panthers got just the lift they were hoping for on special teams when rookie Philly Brown picked up a bouncing ball following a punt and raced 70 yards into the endzone for the opening touchdown of the game. Brown has game breaking speed and will attempt to put it on display against Cincinnati.The Bengals are going to have to contain the Panthers’ return game and try to get their own going with Brandon Tate and Adam Jones. Mike Nugent has been somewhat erratic on his FG attempts this season, but Kevin Huber has done a good job at pinning opponents inside the 20.
The Bengals have all the measurable edges and should have an easy win, but they are coming off a Sunday night game at New England and they may be looking forward to their Week Seven game at Indianapolis. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports