Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
Steve Smith is a good football player, and has had some huge games against the Bears, but how crucial is he to the Panthers' chances of beating the Bears on Sunday?
Let's consider the following stat line for a certain player for the Carolina Panthers - in 2012, this player leads his team with 28 receptions for 471 yards, with a longest reception of 66 (that's 4.7 receptions per game at 16.8 yards per reception). Against the Bears in his career spanning since 2001, this player, in three career games, has 26 receptions for 447 yards (and no touchdowns). That's 8.7 receptions per game at 149 yards per game.
In 2002, this player caught 4 passes for 97 yards in a 24-14 win. In 2005, he caught 14 passes for 169 yards in a 13-3 loss. And just last year, he caught 8 passes for 181 yards, in a 34-29 loss. Those are some pretty heady statlines, even if that player doesn't dent the end zone - but then again, this player caught seven touchdowns in 2011, something he's done in six of his eleven seasons, with a career high twelve in 2005, his All-Pro year. Not to mention, in the playoffs in 2005, he caught two touchdowns to go with his other ten receptions, totaling 218 yards in a 29-21 win.
Steve Smith didn't make it into my Six-Pack posted earlier today. Six keys for the Bears to win, and the Panthers' top receiver didn't make the cut. Is he a good player that can help the Panthers win? Yeah. Is he a player the Bears need to watch out for, given how he tends to rip them a new one? Of course. Does he drive the Panthers' offense anymore? Not really.
I mentioned this earlier, but in 2012, the Panthers have scored 10 points, 35 points, 7 points, 28 points, 12 points and 14 points in, respectively, a loss, a win, and four straight losses. In those games, they've done the following:
Week 1: 10 points, 291 passing yards, 10 rushing yards
Week 2: 35 points, 244 passing yards, 219 rushing yards
Week 3: 7 points, 267 passing yards, 60 rushing yards
Week 4: 28 points, 205 passing yards, 199 rushing yards
Week 5: 12 points, 108 passing yards, 82 rushing yards
Week 6: 14 points, 216 passing yards, 112 rushing yards
In the Panthers' lone win, Steve Smith caught three passes for 104 yards. His passes were a 3-yard completion to the NO 23, a deep 35-yard shot to bring the Panthers to the NO 32, and a fourth-quarter launch for 66 yards to the NO 14. Against Atlanta, with the team scoring 28 points, he recorded three receptions for only 52 yards. In week 1, he records 7 receptions for 106 yards, and the team only scores ten points. Against Dallas, he records seven catches for 83 yards, and the team only scores 14 points. Seattle held him to four for 40.
Steve Smith is still a good football player, but the 2012 Panthers haven't gone the way that Steve Smith has gone. When the Panthers run the ball well, they score points. When they don't, they haven't. And lest you think that's resultant of bad defenses, the Saints allow lots of points, no question; but Atlanta has allowed the sixth fewest points in the league, with a bad run defense.
And in the two games the Bears won against the Panthers, Steve Smith still went off anyway. Smith can and will get his, and don't get me wrong, he can help the Panthers win the game. But the Bears can keep the Panthers' offense down by clamping down on the run game, and forcing the ball to go into the air.