Grill Bill: Best way to beat Drew Brees? 

Kyle Love sacks Drew Brees

@blackcatgal336 _Can this defense get pressure on Brees?

Sure. As much of a problem as pressure has been for the Panthers this year, they’re still capable. Any given Sunday – or in this case, Monday.

The bigger question is will they get pressure on Brees?

The how isn’t as murky.

It’s not exactly a well-kept secret around the league that the best way to get Brees off his spot is through the interior. Because he likes to step into his throws, he doesn’t like defenders near his feet. The Saints do a good job keeping ends outside the pocket, so an inside push is vital.

If Kawann Short, Dontari Poe and Wes Horton and/or Vernon Butler are going to wake up from their quiet years, this sure would be an ideal week. Center Max Unger and right guard Larry Warford are having solid seasons, but left guard Andrus Peat has had some struggles.

Of course, Brees can get the ball out super quick. So it’d be helpful if the Panthers’ secondary can stick to receivers for an extra tick or two before Brees has time to unload.

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@StevenSpath Why do we never use Cam or Mccaffrey in the red zone and throw to receivers who can’t catch the ball instead ????

Well …

McCaffrey has a team-high 13 red zone targets, and his 50 touches down there are 34 more than anyone else on the Panthers. Newton has the second most, but it is notable that 13 of his 16 rushes in the red zone came in the first eight games. The only red zone runs he’s had during this five-week slide were the two on the opening drive against Seattle when he was stuffed by the Seahawks and one last week in Cleveland.

Now, some of that is on the play calling. But Newton often has the option to run if he’d like. He could have on the two-point conversion in Detroit but instead misfired to Jarius Wright, who Newton also missed late in last week’s game.

Wright, by the way, ranks a not-too-shabby 20th in catch percentage according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

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@TariqKhairulla1 Why isn’t Cam being sit out for the upcoming games with his injury?

His dip in carries isn’t just a red zone thing. Newton averaged 9.1 rushing attempts through Week 9. He’s averaging 4.6 since. And obviously, the shoulder is bothering him as a thrower. But I’m not sure there’s anything wrong structurally.

He fell on the shoulder at Tampa, which didn’t help, but I just think it’s been really sore the past few weeks. That’s put the Panthers in a pickle, because as offensive coordinator Norv Turner admitted Friday, Newton not being able to throw much in practice has had “a trickle-down effect” on the passing game’s timing.

Anyway, there’s a difference between being hurt and injured. Newton and the Panthers say he's the former, so if they still have a glimmer of postseason hope, he’s going to keep playing.

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@DMVoth What are your thoughts on Ian Thomas? Is he going to be Newton’s new favorite target?

I started to write a tweet after Thomas’ 11th target last week that he’s the new McCaffrey. The thought was tongue-in-cheek, but it was too silly to hit "send" - even for Twitter. McCaffrey should continue to be Newton’s most targeted through this season and beyond.

But Thomas does look like a different player from when he was asked to fill in for Greg Olsen early this season, when for example, Thomas was mostly responsible for a pair of Newton interceptions against the Giants. When Olsen returned the next week, Thomas effectively disappeared, totaling one catch on 24 snaps in his next seven games. But in seven quarters since Olsen re-injured his foot, Thomas has caught 11 of his 13 targets – and the two he didn’t grab weren’t all that catchable.

Thomas is playing with more confidence, which in turn means he’s playing faster. Remember, he’s only a year removed from his only season of major college football. The 22-year-old is oozing with potential, and now we’re beginning to see what’s possible.

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@jeffe17 _Why is either our offense letting it’s foot off the gas or the defense playing soft? The last time both played well was against Tampa Bay

Think you’re confusing terms here.

The offense’s issues have much more to do with not finishing than any foot-off-the-gas thing.

Heading into the Seattle game, the Panthers had put up 100 points in the fourth quarter, second only to the Saints’ 111. In three games since losing to the Seahawks, Carolina has scored just seven points in the fourth.

At Tampa, the Panthers drove into Bucs territory three times in the final quarter and came away with no points. In Cleveland, a potential game-winning drive fizzled inside the Browns’ 5-yard line.

Defensively, they’re not playing soft. Mostly, they've struggled to produce a consistent pass rush and have given up way too many big plays on the back end.

Yes, the last time both units played well was against Tampa Bay (at home). That’s why we’ve heard so many guys talk about complementary football the past month. The Panthers haven’t been playing it, and it’s no coincidence the last time they did was their last win.

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Website submission from Alan in Winter Haven, FL: In the off-season, every Cat player & coach must read GB HOF RG Jerry Kramer's "Instant Replay" a diary of GB 1967 season. It's summed up as follows: "During our two-a-day workouts (in training camp) the agony is beyond belief. Grass drills, agility drills, wind sprints, everything. You wonder why you're out there, how long you're going to last. No other team in pro football works as hard as we do. (And) no other team wins (as) often, either.” And how did they react to losses? In Game 5 GB was unbeaten but lost at home to 0-4 Vikings. Coach Lombardi rode them mercilessly the next week. They went to NY and bombed Giants 48-21. Later they lost to BAL (losing both starting RBs in that game). Again, next week was pure agony. So against Century Division-leading CLE they scored 35 points in first Qtr (not a typo) and cruised to 55-7 win. They had quite a few injuries that year, but Lombardi would NEVER let them use injuries as excuses for losing. You get in top physical condition and treat losing like they did. That's the formula for winning. Any comments?

I heard the Packers also had to walk 15 miles to school in the snow. Barefoot. Uphill. Both ways.

And now, the lightning round …

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@TomDunphy In regular season primetime games in the Rivera era, the Panthers are 8-10 while being outscored 488 to 390. Four of those eight losses were by 21 points or more. What does this team need to do to avoid an embarrassing blowout?

Well, they're 5-2 on Monday night since 2011. So there's that.

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Website submission from Kort in Salem, Oregon: I am a big fan in Salem, Oregon & work as an Acupuncturist. Do any players get Acupuncture for injuries or anything else? Thanks!

Yup, about a half dozen. The needles are supposed to help increase blood flow to aching muscles and most players swear the process makes them more flexible.

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@MurkN101 What are your favorite pizza toppings?

Cheese. But am fine with pepperoni. And/or sausage. And/or bacon. So, yeah, I'm boring.

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@Dr_J_87 Bill, go in there and give the best speech of your life, so we win out and grab that playoff berth #inBillWeTrust

On it.

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