The Panthers drafted Devin Funchess this past April with the 41st overall pick. The Panthers’ goal was to pair him with rising star Kelvin Benjamin as Newton’s long-term receiving threats to eventually replace veteran Greg Olsen. Unfortunately Benjamin’s seasons was cut short as he tore his ACL in pre-season. Funchess finished the season with 31 receptions, 473 yards, and 5 touchdowns on 64 targets. His season has been far from consistent finally being trusted in this offense to earn more targets. Against the Buccaneers, he totaled 120 yards and a touchdown on 8 targets.
This first play we will look at is Funchess’ longest reception of the day. This happened after Newton took a 12 yards sack on 1st down by #54 Bruce Carter.
Situation: 2nd and 22 at CAR 28
Description: (11:03 – 2nd) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Newton pass deep right to D.Funchess to TB 31 for 41 yards (J.Banks). Pass was tipped by 31 Bradley McDougald at the Panther 4
- The Panthers are in shotgun slot left using 12-personnel with one running back, two tight ends, and Funchess split out wide left.
- Dickson runs a seam route up the left hash marks, while Funchess runs a deep-dig route. This is a dagger-combination that we looked at in the Beginner Series.
- The Buccaneers rush four. #94 G.Johnson beats RT#74 Remmers to the outside by swiping his hands before the blocker can get his hands on him.
- Cam Newton feels the pressure at the very last second and ducks around him avoiding the sack.
- #92 Gholston dives at his feet, but Newton steps over them escaping from the pocket while keeping his eyes down the field.
- Newton sees Funchess sprinting across the field and he lobs the ball on the run.
- #30 McDougald, who is covering Greg Olsen, leaps into the air tipping the ball.
- Funchess is able to slow his body and reach behind him for a great catch.
- He avoids the open-field tackle by #37 Tandy and then finally gets taken down by #27 Banks.
- The reason why this play worked is because the Buccaneers are in a Cover 3 shell with four underneath linebackers. The seam route by Dickson widens the gap between the defensive backs and the linebackers giving Funchess room to get open underneath. Additionally, Newton’s ability to keep plays alive is very impressive. This buys time for Funchess to work his way completely across the field.
On the very next play, Newton again passes it deep to Funchess. This time it’s a stop-n-go route. Funchess actually does a great job of beating #27 Banks to the outside, but he is so exhausted from the previous play that he can’t accelerate to the ball. This causes the ball to be “overthrown.”
The next play we will look at is Funchess’ touchdown. This is his fifth touchdown on the season.
Situation: 3rd and 11 at TB 16
Description: (7:22 – 4th) Devin Funchess Pass From Cam Newton for 16 Yrds G.Gano extra point is GOOD
- The Panthers line up in shotgun trips bunch right with Funchess split wide left.
- The Buccaneers are in Cover 0 where they blitz the safety and the inside linebackers through the A-gaps.
- #93 G.McCoy rips through the weakside B-gap forcing Newton to find his receiver early.
- Funchess is Newton’s hot-read. He runs a slant-route breaking over the middle of the field inside #27 Banks’ man-to-man coverage.
- After the reception, he fights through Banks’ tackle and reaches across the goal line for the score.
A Funchess Fumble
On his second target of the game, late in the first quarter, he fumbled the ball. The game was still tied, and this gave the Buccaneers great field position. Fortunately for the Panthers, Winston and the Buccaneers could only gain a field goal off of the turnover. Ball security is not one of Funchess weaknesses as this was his first fumble all season.
My one critique of his play throughout the game is how Funchess catches the football. A 6’4″ receiver should have the length to extend for the ball. This issue can be seen in Play 2 (above) where he allows the ball to get inside his frame. This could be a problem against top tier cornerbacks who would be able to deflect the ball and not allow a touchdown pass like this. I do love his physical nature, though, and how he uses his body to box out his defenders.
The Panthers won this game convincingly 38-10 securing the 1st overall seed in the NFC. They face the Seahawks if the Seahawks beat the Vikings or the winner of the Redskins-Packers game if the Vikings win that match.
With the run game struggling in Jonathan Stewart’s absence, Newton will continue to throw the ball more giving Olsen and Funchess plenty of targets. During this game, it was clear that the Panthers love using Funchess over the middle of the field on slant- and dig patterns working in the intermediate zones. I expect the same trend to continue for the playoffs until next season where hopefully his deep route running ability and tracking ability improves.
Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.