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Panthers at Bears: 3 plays to love, 3 plays to hate

These key plays swung momentum and decided the Panthers awful, horrendous, gutless 17-3 road loss against the Chicago Bears, putting Carolina’s record at 4-3.  

Carolina Panthers v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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

1st Quarter 0:04 – Panthers 0, Bears 7. Bears ball 3rd-and-7 at CAR 25

The Situation: The Bears were in field goal range facing 3rd-and-7 to close out the first quarter. A field goal here would push Chicago’s lead to 10-0.

The Play: Captain Munnerlyn came on a blitz and sacked Mitch Trubisky for a nine yard loss. The sack pushed the field goal attempt to 52 yards. Connor Barth had to drive the long kick, allowing Kawann Short to get penetration, get a hand up, and block the kick. Munnerlyn’s sack likely took a Bears field goal off the board.

2nd Quarter 2:00 – Panthers 3, Bears 14. Bears ball 3rd-and-Goal at CAR 1

The Situation: The Bears were one yard away from the end zone to go up 21-3 late in the second quarter.

The Play: Two “Plays to Love” for Julius Peppers here. On second down Peppers got into the backfield and dropped Jordan Howard for a one yard loss, pushing the ball back to the two. Then, on third down, Mitch Trubisky scrambled left and headed for the pylon. Peppers pursued Trubisky and got his hands on the Bears QB as he dove for the pylon. Peppers tackled him inside the one and forced a Bears field goal instead of a touchdown. Peppers singlehandedly prevented four points on these two plays.

3rd Quarter 10:40 – Panthers 3, Bears 17. Panthers ball 3rd-and-13 at CAR 35

The Situation: The offense had been inept all day, and now faced 3rd-and-13 early in the third quarter, trailing by 14.

The Play: Cam looked deep but could not find an open receiver. He then shook off pressure to buy time and dump the ball of on a short pass to Christian McCaffrey. CMC made the first man miss then turned on the jets to scamper for a 20-yard gain and a first down. If any play could have sparked the zombie-like offense, this could have been it. But alas, the drive ended on a failed 4th-and-2 attempt.

Three Plays to Hate

1st Quarter 8:59 – Panthers 0, Bears 0. Panthers ball 1st-and-10 at CHI 24

The Situation: The Panthers received the opening kickoff and had put together an impressive eight-play drive down to the Chicago 24.

The Play: Carolina ran a read-option. Cam Newton faked a handoff to Christian McCaffrey then pitched to Curtis Samuel. The pitch hit Samuel in the hands, and the rookie just fumbled it. Eddie Jackson scooped up the fumble and returned it 75 yards for a Bears touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.

2nd Quarter 12:28 – Panthers 0, Bears 7. Panthers ball 3rd-and-10 at CHI 33

The Situation: After failing to score in the first quarter, the Panthers had driven down to the Chicago 33. Facing 3rd-and-10, they needed at least a few yards to get into better field goal range.

The Play: Cam forced a pass into tight coverage to Kelvin Benjamin on a slant. Prince Amukamara was blanketing Benjamin and the Bears corner was able to get his hand on the pass, tipping it high up in the air. Eddie Jackson intercepted the pass and streaked down the sideline. Cam should have been able to either tackle him or push him out of bounds, but Newton bit on a fake and whiffed on a weak tackle attempt. Jackson took the pick 76 yards to the house for a 14-0 Bears lead. Bad decision by Cam to force the pass, then terrible tackle attempt, too.

3rd Quarter 6:53 – Panthers 3, Bears 17. Panthers ball 4th-and-2 at CHI 25

The Situation: Midway through the third quarter, the Panthers offense had only mustered three points and needed a touchdown. Instead of attempting a 42-yard field goal, Ron Rivera justifiably elected to go for it on 4th-and-2.

The Play: Mike Shula dialed up a doomed quarterback draw up the middle. The Panthers offensive line had been completely unable to open holes all day. On this play they got no push (again) and Cam had nowhere to run. The play was stuffed and Carolina gave up the ball on downs. This was just one of several frustrating coaching decision on the day, including punting with 13:28 remaining FROM THE CHICAGO 38 and then punting with 3:44 left in the game while TRAILING BY TWO TOUCHDOWNS! Both Ron Rivera and Mike Shula had very poor coaching performances in this game.

Closing It Out and Summing It Up

So just who exactly are the 2017 Carolina Panthers?

Are they the competent bunch who looked downright solid in wins against the 49ers, Lions, and Patriots?

Or are they mediocre underachievers with an impotent offense and bungling coaching staff as seen in brutal losses to the Saints and Bears?

Good luck figuring out this frustrating team.

The offense needs to learn what the words “hurry up” mean. Despite trailing by 14 the entire second half, Carolina’s offense continued to huddle, make adjustments at the line, and snap the ball with less than five seconds left on the play clock. EVERY MINUTE MATTERS DURING A COMEBACK! The lack of urgency the offense displayed was inexcusable.

Both Ron Rivera and Mike Shula had awful days. If this is the best game plan the Panthers brain trust can design with 10 days to prepare, then this season is already a lost cause.

But, Panthers fans, while this was a cover-your-eyes awful loss, the season is still salvageable. Carolina is 4-3 and playing in a winnable division. Hopefully guys like Luke Kuechly, Ryan Kalil, Kurt Coleman, and Greg Olsen can get better in time to enable a late playoff push.

Or, this terrible loss could be the straw that broke the Panthers back and the season derails from here.

With this inconsistent team, who knows?

“P2L, P2H” Season Leaders

Plays to Love:

6 PTL - Devin Funchess

4 PTL – Cam Newton

3 PTL – Mike Shula

2 PTL – Christian McCaffrey, Julius Peppers, Kawann Short, Mario Addison

1 PTL – Captain Munnerlyn, Charles Johnson, Curtis Samuel, Daryl Worley, Ed Dickson, Fozzy Whittaker, Graham Gano, Luke Kuechly, Russell Shepard, Shaq Thompson, Thomas Davis, Tyler Larsen, Wes Horton

Plays to Hate:

5 PTH – Cam Newton

4 PTH – Luke Kuechly

3 PTH – Ron Rivera

2 PTH - Captain Munnerlyn, Jonathan Stewart, Shaq Thompson

1 PTH - Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel, Daryl Williams, Daryl Worley, Graham Gano, Matt Kalil, Mike Adams, Mike Shula, Trai Turner, Tyler Larsen


Which Play to Hate had the biggest impact on the Panthers loss?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    1st Quarter - Curtis Samuel’s fumble is returned for a Chicago TD
    (96 votes)
  • 31%
    2nd Quarter - Cam forces pass to KB and interception is returned for a Chicago TD
    (68 votes)
  • 25%
    3rd Quarter - Mike Shula dials up a QB draw on 4th-and-2, which fails
    (55 votes)
219 votes total Vote Now