We’ve talked Patriots, Rams, Chiefs, and Packers. You know, all the usual suspects and those up and coming teams with promise. But how about the Carolina Panthers? They made the Super Bowl not so long ago, back in 2016. They’ve still got hero quarterback Cam Newton. So… how are the Panthers looking this season?
After Week 4, the Panthers are 3-1. That’s not so bad… except for the fact that the one loss is to their NFC South opponent, the Atlanta Falcons (who, let’s be honest, are not great this year). But the Panthers have triumphed over the Cowboys, Bengals, and now, the Giants. So can we expect big things going forward?
In the offseason, the Carolina Panthers decided to add some speed to their roster. After a disappointing early exit from the playoffs last year, they completely revamped their offense. In terms of deep threats, they traded for Torrey Smith and signed Damiere Byrd. They extended tight end Greg Olsen’s contract but they also drafted Ian Thomas, a guy who can learn from the veteran Olsen before Olsen inevitably leaves. Another draft-pick, DJ Moore, was chosen for his killer instinct. The Panthers also have running backs CJ Anderson and Christian McCaffrey… and they can run.
Last Sunday… The Panthers vs. New York Giants
But what about that Panthers-Giants game last weekend? Let’s talk about that. Was the 33-31 win skill or just dumb luck? The Cardiac Cats appeared sharp in the first half, only to crumble and lose control during the second. The whole team, including quarterback Cam Newton, looked a lot less graceful later in the game. In the final minutes, the Panthers lost the lead… but luckily the biggest play of the game was the last one.
As time expired, Graham Gano proved that he had ice in his veins with an epic 63-yard field goal for the win. That’s a career personal best for Gano.
(PS – The commentary is even better in Spanish.)
WALK OFF WIN FOR THE @PANTHERS!!!!
GRAHAM GANO’S GAME WINNING 63 YARD FIELD GOAL IS EVEN BETTER WITH TITANIC MUSIC!!!!
— 🏈🚢🎶TITANIC TD🏈🚢🎶 (@TitanicTD) October 7, 2018
A Solid Offense
At home at Bank of America Stadium, we saw why the Panthers continue to win… their offense is solid.
McCaffrey proved reliable, showing that run-away speed the Panthers hoped for in the offseason and racking up 93 yards from the line of scrimmage, including an 18-yard touchdown pass. DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel got their hands on the ball a lot more this game, and these guys are lightning fast too. Samuel scored his first NFL touchdown against the Colts. Sure, it didn’t hurt that the Giants’ tackling game looked miserable, but if these three players are given a more prominent role in the future, we might see some truly great offense from the Panthers
Then you combine that talent with Devin Funchess, who led the team in receiving yards this week against the Giants and you’re really cooking with gas. He went four of seven for 53 yards. Along with Jarius Wright, they were each able to make a few clutch catches.
And that’s all without Greg Olsen, who was out with a foot injury.
And the Defense
But what about defense? The Panthers only recorded one sack against the Giants, but according to Julius Pepeprs, that could be because Giants QB Eli Manning got the ball off a lot faster than usual this game. But hey, you can thank Luke Kuechly for that one sack.
The defense also held star Giants running back Saquon Barkley to just 48 rushing yards. And Panthers safety Mike Adams for two back-to-back interceptions off Manning. Too bad monster Odell Beckham, Jr. still managed to generate 131 yards and a touchdown pass…
“A wise man once told me, a great quarterback is only as good as his kicker. . . Graham put the whole team on his back today, well toe.”
— Ashley Stroehlein (@ashstro) October 7, 2018
As always, Cam Newton is a multitalented threat. He’s a big man who can throw as well as run, and this game he added blocking to his list of skills, mowing down Giants linebacker Kareem Martin. But Newton didn’t quite show the full range of talent we know he has during Sunday’s matchup.
We saw some uncharacteristic missteps by the Panthers, including communication problems between Newton and Ian Thomas which led to two turnovers. Coach Ron Rivera took the blame for one of these interceptions, but Cam stepped up and owned his mistakes following the game.
The Panthers QB completed 21 of 35 passes for only 237 yards, and he threw two interceptions. Despite scoring two touchdowns, rushing for 29 yards, and having a pretty good first half, he called his own performance “subpar.” Newton was able to finish strong on the final drive, but he credited kicker Gano with salvaging the game. According to Newton, “Gano made a lot of wrongs right today.”
We’ll just have to wait and see if the Panthers can refine their game and beat a tough-looking Redskins team next weekend!