CHARLOTTE, NC (Jourdan Rodrigue/CharlotteObserver) - As Carolina looks to rebound from a loss in Week 6 to Philadelphia, a long week has allowed the Panthers to focus on a few key phases of their game.
Most importantly, Carolina wants to fix its run game.
Sunday against Chicago, an opponent that depends heavily on its rushing attack with rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky adjusting to the playbook and successful complementary backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, the game may be decided on the ground.
Chicago has rushed for 346 yards in its past two games, relying heavily on Howard, who carried the ball 55 times for 243 of those yards (including 167 last week). Trubisky has attempted just 41 passes and completed 20, with two touchdowns and an interception.
Carolina has rushed for just 108 yards combined in its past two games. Quarterback Cam Newton is the team's leading rusher through six games in yards per attempt (4.0), while lead back Jonathan Stewart is averaging 2.9 yards per attempt and complementary back Christian McCaffrey just 2.7.
The Panthers have a chance to be successful against the Bears, who rank 15th in rushing yards allowed (626).
Additionally, Chicago may have to wait another week to continue to develop Trubisky's arm. The weather at Soldier Field on Sunday is supposed to be fairly nasty, with rain and wind – not conducive to an aerial attack.
And the Panthers aren't sure if one of their top receivers, Kelvin Benjamin, will be active this weekend. He practiced Friday and should be good to go, but how a swollen bursa sac in his surgically repaired knee reacts will determine his final status.
In the Panthers' favor is the projected return of veteran center Ryan Kalil, whose ability to set the line and pull for the run has been a boon for Carolina in years past. He has missed five games with a neck issue.