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: Tampa Bay’s offense was nearing field goal range on the eighth play of a sustained drive, looking to get their first points on the board.
The Play: Jameis Winston dropped back to pass while Julius Peppers went right through his blocker. Peppers wrapped up Winston and the Bucs quarterback tried to flick the ball to a receiver despite having Peppers draped all over him. Julius jarred the ball loose before Winston could get the pass off, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Kurt Coleman. Not only did Peppers force a turnover, he likely took points off the board from the Bucs.
3rd Quarter 10:38 – Panthers 10, Buccaneers 0. Buccaneers ball 3rd-and-7 at CAR 33
The Situation: After a Cam Newton interception, Tampa took their first drive of the second half into field goal range. Facing third down from the Carolina 33, positive yardage here would likely set up the Bucs for a field goal try.
The Play: Kyle Love put a beautiful spin move on his blocker and drew a bead on Jameis Winston. Love engulfed the Bucs quarterback and dropped him for a sack. Tampa Bay was near field goal range, so this sack either prevented a field goal attempt or the Bucs from going for it on fourth down. Tampa now had no choice but to punt.
4th Quarter 11:42 – Panthers 10, Buccaneers 3. Buccaneers ball 3rd-and-8 at TB 33
The Situation: After a Bucs field goal, Tampa Bay had trimmed the Panthers lead to 10-3. Tampa’s offense had converted two first downs as they looked to build on their momentum.
The Play: Captain Munnerlyn came on a blitz and hit Winston’s arm as he attempted to pass. The contact caused the ball to flutter high into the air, allowing Mike Adams to make an athletic diving interception. The Panthers took possession at the Tampa Bay 48. The ensuing Panthers possession resulted in touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin, putting the Panthers up 17-3, which would prove to be the final score.
Three Plays to Hate
2nd Quarter 10:52 – Panthers 7, Buccaneers 0. Panthers ball 1st-and-10 at CAR 13
The Situation: The Panthers took possession at their own two yard line after getting pinned by a great punt. On first down, Jonathan Stewart burst through the middle for 11 yards to give Carolina some breathing room. On the next play, Cam Newton targeted Devin Funchess.
The Play: Funchess picked up 14 yards on a catch-and-run, getting the Panthers safely to the Carolina 27. However, Funch was flagged for a ticky-tack offensive pass interference. The play was a momentum killer and pushed the Panthers back to the seven yard line. Carolina ended up punting from their own end zone after the flag on Funch.
3rd Quarter 13:39 – Panthers 10, Buccaneers 0. Panthers ball 3rd-and-5 at TB 48
The Situation: The Panthers received the ball to start the second half and Russell Shepard’s nice 33-yard return gave Carolina starting field position near midfield. The Panthers then faced a three-and-out, potentially squandering Shepard’s good return.
The Play: Ed Dickson ran an out route, and Cam just threw a bad pass that was both behind and short of his receiver. Chris Conte was able to easily break under the route and intercept the pass. After the Panthers started with such good field position, it felt like a score was coming. But instead, the possession was wasted.
4th Quarter 4:08 – Panthers 17, Buccaneers 3. Panthers ball 4th-and-1 at CAR 34
The Situation: The Panthers were up two touchdowns late and were lining up to punt and hopefully give the Bucs poor starting field position. Tampa Bay needed a quick touchdown if they wanted to pull off a late miracle, so the Panthers were aiming to pin them as deep as possible.
The Play: Bernard Reedy returned the punt 10 yards to the Tampa Bay 24, but Andrew Gachkar hit Reedy out of bounds and drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness. Instead of starting at the 24, the Bucs drive would now start at the 39. Gachkar rarely plays, and this was not a good way for most Panthers fans to hear his name for the first time.
Closing It Out and Summing It Up
Divisional wins always feel good, especially when they are as dominant as this one was.
Tampa Bay’s offense had absolutely no chance against Carolina’s dialed-in defense. Both Luke Kuechly and Kurt Coleman returned from multi-week absences, and with the two of them playing Carolina’s defense went from good to elite. The duo combined for 17 tackles, an interception (Kuechly), and a fumble recovery (Coleman).
The Panthers offense was just good enough to avoid spoiling yet another stellar defensive effort, but the offense still leaves a lot to be desired. There are just no open running lanes while the lack of a deep threat continues to hamstring Carolina’s passing game. Cam threw several ill-advised bombs on third-and-medium situations to receivers who were tightly covered downfield.
At the halfway mark, Carolina sits at 5-3 and in the thick of the playoff hunt. This team has been so inconsistent, alternating between brilliant and baffling, that anything can happen in the second half. Injuries to key players explains some of this, and the Panthers are finally getting healthier.
Great win. Keep pounding!
“P2L, P2H” Season Leaders
Plays to Love:
6 PTL - Devin Funchess
4 PTL – Cam Newton
3 PTL – Julius Peppers, Mike Shula
2 PTL – Captain Munnerlyn, Christian McCaffrey, Kawann Short, Mario Addison
1 PTL – Charles Johnson, Curtis Samuel, Daryl Worley, Ed Dickson, Fozzy Whittaker, Graham Gano, Kyle Love, Luke Kuechly, Mike Adams, Russell Shepard, Shaq Thompson, Thomas Davis, Tyler Larsen, Wes Horton
Plays to Hate:
6 PTH – Cam Newton
4 PTH – Luke Kuechly
3 PTH – Ron Rivera
2 PTH - Captain Munnerlyn, Jonathan Stewart, Shaq Thompson
1 PTH - Andrew Gachkar, Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel, Daryl Williams, Daryl Worley, Devin Funchess, Graham Gano, Matt Kalil, Mike Adams, Mike Shula, Trai Turner, Tyler Larsen
Which Play to Love had the biggest impact on the Panthers win?
This poll is closed
2nd Quarter - Julius Peppers strip-sack
3rd Quarter - Kyle Love sack pushes Bucs out of field goal range, forces punt
4th Quarter - Captain Munnerlyn hits Winston’s arm and Mike Adams intercepts the pass