A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the Panthers love utilizing the “read option,” and noted some examples of how they ran it effectively against the Falcons.
The read option, in case you’re unfamiliar, is a common play on the college and high school levels, but not seen all that often in the pros. To simplify it, on the read option, the offense will leave a defender completely unblocked, and the QB will place the ball in the gut of the RB. This makes the defender choose whether to go after the RB or the QB. If the unblocked defender commits to the RB, the QB can pull the ball away from the RB and keep it himself, or if the defender chases the QB, he can leave it in the gut of the RB. If the QB/RB can beat the unblocked defender, they should have the numbers advantage in blocking up the rest of the defense.
Early in the game, the Panthers ran it very effectively against an over-aggressive DeMarcus Ware. Here, the Panthers will leave Ware (circled) unblocked, and Cam Newton will put the ball in the gut of RB Jonathan Stewart:
Ware chases Stewart, the slot corner takes away the pitch option, and Newton has a gigantic hole to run through:
That play went for 20 yards and set up a 1st and goal for the Panthers at the Cowboys 7 yard line.
In a key situation in the 3rd quarter, the Panthers faced a 3rd and 1. They went right back to the read option, this time leaving Anthony Spencer as the unblocked defender. Newton puts it in the gut of Stewart:
But Spencer stays disciplined and sets the edge, not allowing Newton to get around him to the outside:
He can’t make the tackle, but he forces Newton back inside and gets just enough of him to slow him down, allowing Dan Connor and Gerald Sensabaugh clean up:
Really well done.
Later in the game in a key spot, the Cowboys were playing coverage on a 3rd and 11. They only rushed 3: DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and Spencer:
Ratliff and Ware both get doubled, and Ware even gets an extra chipper, while the Panthers single-block Spencer. It’s tough to see in the still shots, but Spencer starts off his pass rush by doing a great job of swatting away RT Garry Williams’ hands:
Spencer gets around Williams to the outside, and again, you can’t see it here, but Williams gets away with a fairly blatant hold:
No worries. Spencer keeps hustling. Newton rolls out of the pocket to his right, and Spencer stays after him:
And finally, Spencer and Ratliff force the throwaway, leading to a punt:
Impressive motor by Spencer with only 7 minutes left in the game.
During the offseason, I criticized the Cowboys for slapping the franchise tag on Spencer and allowing him to eat up more than 7% of their 2012 salary cap. I still think that’s crazy, but for one game at least, Spencer made two big plays that won’t show up in the stat sheet.