You know the old adage “Stick with what got you here.” It’s a philosophy that’s often used in the NFL, but it wasn’t used last week against the Vikings. As a result, I’m wondering if the Panthers, who host the Vikings this Sunday night, have taken note.
Let me explain.
In preparing for last week’s game against the Bengals, I noticed that Cincinnati was rushing the ball at a 60% clip on 1st down, the 2nd-highest mark in the league. But I wondered to myself if perhaps Cincinnati’s offensive staff would alter their play calling on 1st down, largely because they were facing one of the NFL’s most dominant run defense and because they could try and expose rookie LB Jasper Brinkley – who was starting his 1st career game – in pass coverage.
So I asked 2 Vikings coaches – one on the offensive staff and another on the defensive staff – if they thought the Bengals would alter their approach on 1st down. Both coaches told me they didn’t expect Cincinnati to change. Basically, they were of the opinion that at this point in the season you are who you are, and that most teams choose to stick with what they do best.
That explanation made sense to me. As it turns out, the Bengals would’ve been wise to stick with what works. But they didn’t.
Cincinnati ran just 9 times on 19 first down plays, not counting the 4th quarter – when Cincinnati was behind and had to throw most of the time – and also not counting QB scrambles on 1st down. That’s just 47.3% of the time compared to their season-long rate of 60%. Even more puzzling, when the Bengals DID run on 1st down against the Vikings, they were +47 yards, which is 4.66 yards per attempt.
For some reason, though, the Bengals didn’t stick with their trend of running on 1st down.
That brings us to the Panthers. Carolina enters this weekend’s game against the Vikings running 58.4% of the time on 1st down. Will Carolina stick with their trend? Or will they deviate away from it?
Given the fact that they boast the league’s 4th-best rushing attack and given how much Cincinnati struggled when they went away from their 1st-down running trend, I expect Carolina to stick closer to their approach of running on 1st down.
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