Tale Of The Tape: Carolina Panthers At Miami Dolphins
- QuarterbackCam Newton is proving to be one of the most improved quarterbacks in the NFL. He has come a long way this season in proving his consistency, and that’s why the Panthers have been able to climb the ladder so rapidly this season. Newton is a brilliant athlete who can make big plays with his strong arm or his quick feet.The Dolphins may have pulled out a win against the Chargers in Week 11, but they are struggling to play consistently. Ryan Tannehill has the talent to throw short- and medium-range passes, but his long passing suffers and he lacks the leadership to bring the Dolphins victories in the fourth quarter. Tannehill’s 14-11 TD-interception ratio is not good enough.
- OffenseThe Panthers are finding a true offensive identity this year and the running game has much to do with it. DeAngelo Williams has the skill and toughness to run inside and the speed to get to the outside and make a big play. Fullback Mike Tolbert is a load when he runs or catches a short pass. Steve Smith is fighting hard to get the Panthers back to the playoffs while Greg Olsen has dependable hands.The Dolphins have not had a consistent running game all season. They have tried to establish Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas and both have had their moments, but opposing defenses can usually shut them down when the game is on the line. Wide receiver Brian Hartline is a solid route runner with dependable hands, but Mike Wallace is an inconsistent deep threat.
- DefenseThe Panthers got off to a slow start, but the defense helped head coach Ron Rivera get the season turned around. The Panthers are big, strong, athletic and nasty on defense. They rank first in the league in fewest yards allowed. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is one of the best at his position in the league and he leads the team in tackles. Charles Johnson is a monster pass rusher.The Dolphins have been ordinary on the defensive end and rank 21st in yards allowed. Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe has been one of the few consistent Dolphins defenders and he leads the team with 70 stops. Defensive end Cameron Wake is the Dolphins’ best pass rusher with 6.5 sacks, while fellow DE Olivier Vernon is right behind with 5.5. sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Panthers have one of the most explosive return men in the league but he has yet to have a big return this season. Carolina is quite disciplined in its special teams coverage and rarely allows big plays. Graham Gano has made 13-of-14 FG attempts this season and is 5-of-5 on attempts of 50 yards or more.The Dolphins have struggled with their special teams coverage and they have little chance of getting a big return from Marcus Thigpen, who is merely ordinary. Placekicker Caleb Sturgis has had an up-and-down season, but punter Brandon Fields has a strong leg and is averaging 49.3 yards per punt.
The Panthers have a big edge in toughness and skill, and that’s a difficult combination to beat. The only issue is that Carolina is coming off a high-profile Monday night game and they may not be at the top of their game. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor