Plays to Love, Plays to Hate (aka "P2L, P2H") looks at the most significant plays in swinging momentum and impacting the eventual outcome of the game. There is always plenty to hate about NFL officiating, so we will only focus on the plays on the field, not the refs.
Three Plays to Love
The Situation: Carolina faced a three-and-out from their own 12. Failing to convert here would force a punt from the end zone and likely set the Raiders up with good field position.
The Play: Cam dropped back to pass as Ted Ginn ran a deep post. Ginn got separation from TJ Carrie and Newton launched a 50-plus yard bomb to his speedy wide receiver. Cam’s pass hit Ginn right in stride, and Ginn sprinted for an 88-yard touchdown. The Panthers passing game had been totally inept all day, but this play sparked Carolina and shifted momentum in an instant. The Panthers failed on their two-point conversion attempt (more on that below), and now trailed 24-19.
3rd Quarter 4:29 – Panthers 19, Raiders 24. Raiders ball 2nd-and-13 on 50 Yard Line
The Situation: The Panthers had narrowed the Raiders lead from 24-7 to 24-19. Oakland had driven to midfield and was looking to get points on the board to halt Carolina’s momentum.
The Play: Derek Carr dropped to pass and felt pressure. Thomas Davis was in zone coverage and read Carr’s eyes as Oakland’s QB stepped up in the pocket and hurried a pass over the middle. Davis jumped the route and intercepted the pass. TD returned the pick 31 yards to the Oakland 28, setting up an eventual Jonathan Steward touchdown and putting Carolina in the lead at 25-24 after another failed two-point conversion.
4th Quarter 13:26 – Panthers 25, Raiders 24. Panthers ball 3rd-and-2 on OAK 44
The Situation: With a one point lead and nearing field goal range, Carolina faced an important 3rd-and-2.
The Play: Cam started in shotgun, faked a handoff to Mike Tolbert, then threw a bomb to Kelvin Benjamin. Sean Smith had good coverage on KB, but the 6’5, 245-pound beast just went up an over Smith to juggle then haul in a spectacular 44-yard touchdown. The Panthers now led 32-24 early in the fourth quarter.
Three Plays to Hate
2nd Quarter :59 – Panthers 7, Raiders 17. Panthers ball 2nd-and-6 on CAR 13
The Situation: The first half had been a total train wreck for the Panthers offense. With less than a minute left in the second quarter and pinned at their own 13, Mike Shula inexplicably thought this was the ideal situation for a slow-developing misdirection screen pass.
The Play: Cam faked a screen pass left, then pivoted, spun around, and threw a screen pass right. Khalil Mack read the play, disengaged from his block, stepped into the lane, and intercepted the pass. Mack waltzed untouched into the end zone for a devastating pick-six, and a 24-7 Raiders lead at the half. Just a dumb play for that situation.
3rd Quarter 10:33 – Panthers 13, Raiders 24. Panthers Extra Point Try
The Situation: The second half started with a Derek Carr fumble as he dislocated his finger on the QB-Center exchange. Carolina recovered the fumble and converted the drive with a Jonathan Stewart touchdown. The Panthers were now attempting the extra point.
The Play: The Raiders collapsed the middle of the line, and Denico Autry got his hand up and blocked Graham Gano’s extra point attempt. The ball sailed wide left and the Panthers now trailed 24-13 instead of 24-14. This failed extra point had a huge impact on the game because it forced Carolina to go for two-point conversions on their next two touchdowns, and they failed on both attempts. This missed extra point set off a chain reaction that cost Carolina three extra points, which was massive in a game that ended 35-32.
4th Quarter 4:07 – Panthers 32, Raiders 32. Raiders ball 3rd-and-9 on OAK 14
The Situation: With the game tied and nearing just four minutes remaining, Oakland faced a crucial 3rd-and-9 from their own 14. If the Panthers defense could hold here and force a punt, Cam and the offense could be put in position to win the game.
The Play: Michael Crabtree ran a streak down the middle of the field with A.J. Klein in man coverage. Klein stayed close to Crabtree for nearly 50 yards on the streak, which is all that can be expected of a linebacker in that situation. But safety Tre Boston left Klein on an island. Boston shaded to the left AND COVERED ABSOLUTELY NOBODY while Klein struggled to keep up with the sprinting Crabtree. With no safety help from Boston, Crabtree came down with a 49-yard reception. This play set Oakland up for a late field goal to take the lead 35-32, which would prove to be the final score.
Closing It Out & Summing It Up
I love the Carolina Panthers, but this horribly disappointing 4-7 season just can’t end fast enough at this point.
I’m so frustrated with this crapfest of a season I can’t think straight, so I’ll let Homer Simpson sum up how I’ve felt for most of the year:
"Yeah, Moe, that team sure did suck last night. They just plain sucked. I’ve seen team suck before, but they were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked."
"P2L, P2H" Season Leaders
Plays to Love Year-to-Date:
8 "PTL" – Cam Newton
5 "PTL" – Kelvin Benjamin, Thomas Davis
3 "PTL" – Kurt Coleman
2 "PTL" – Andy Lee, Star Lotulelei, Ted Ginn, Vernon Butler
1 "PTL" – A.J. Klein, Bene Benwikere, Cameron Artis-Payne, Charles Johnson, Corey Brown, Devin Funchess, Greg Olsen, Jonathan Stewart, Kawann Short, Kony Ealy, Kyle Love, Lavar Edwards, Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, Robert McClain, Tre Boston
Plays to Hate Year-to-Date:
6 "PTH" – Cam Newton
3 "PTH" – James Bradberry, Kurt Coleman
2 "PTH" – Bene Benwikere, Daryl Worley, Derek Anderson, Graham Gano, Kelvin Benjamin
1 "PTH" – Colin Jones, Ed Dickson, Jonathan Stewart, Kony Ealy, Leonard Johnson, Luke Kuechly, Michael Oher, Mike Remmers, Ryan Kalil, Ted Ginn, Trai Turner, Tre Boston, Zack Sanchez