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: On the game’s opening drive, Carolina crossed midfield but now faced 3rd-and-7 outside of field goal range.
The Play: Cam Newton started in shotgun and the pocket was quickly collapsed by two edge rushes. Cam stepped up in the pocket then scrambled toward the right sideline. Cam nearly stepped out of bounds two yards short of the first, but then nimbly cut back inside and evaded LB Ramon Humber. Newton picked up 15 yards and a first down on the athletic play, extending a drive that resulted in a field goal and an early 3-0 Panthers lead.
2nd Quarter 5:04 – Panthers 3, Bills 0. Panthers ball 1st-and-25 at the 50 Yard Line
The Situation: After two straight penalties, the Panthers faced 1st-and-25 at midfield, seemingly being pushed out of field goal range.
The Play: Devin Funchess ran a deep in route and created separation with a great stop and cut move. Cam delivered an excellent ball which Funch went high to reel in for a 21-yard gain. The big reception was the key play in a drive which ended with another Panthers field goal, extending Carolina’s lead to 6-0 at the half.
3rd Quarter 12:39 – Panthers 6, Bills 0. Bills ball 4th-and-1 at CAR 44
The Situation: After being shut out in the first half, the Bills received the kickoff to start the third quarter. Buffalo was stringing together their best drive of the game, crossing midfield for the first time. They faced 4th-and-1 and decided to go for it.
The Play: Buffalo pitched a sweep wide left to the explosive LeSean McCoy. Mario Addison did an excellent job of getting penetration and keeping contain. Addison got a hand on McCoy, spinning him around and forcing him back inside. Thomas Davis and Kurt Coleman swarmed McCoy and dropped him for a one yard loss and forcing a turnover on downs. Davis got credit for the tackle, but it was Addison who blew up the play. The Bills drive was dead as the Panthers continued to cling to their fragile 6-0 lead.
Three Plays to Hate
2nd Quarter 13:40 – Panthers 3, Bills 0. Panthers ball 2nd-and-9 at BUF 22
The Situation: The Panthers took their third drive down to the Buffalo 22 and were in field goal range. Things quickly changed, however, as Cam Newton was sacked on back-to-back plays.
The Play(s): On second down, Matt Kalil got beat off the edge by a speed rush and the sack pushed the Panthers back 10 yards to the Buffalo 32. Then, on third down, Daryl Williams got tripped up with Ed Dickson, forcing Williams to fall over and give up a seven-yard sack. Poor back-to-back plays by the Panthers tackles pushed Carolina out of field goal range and forced a punt.
4th Quarter 14:28 – Panthers 6, Bills 0. Bills ball 3rd-and-13 at BUF 40
The Situation: The Panthers defense had pitched a shutout into the fourth quarter. Buffalo faced a 3rd-and-13 from their own 40 as the Carolina defense looked to force another punt.
The Play: Luke Kuechly lined up over center, faking a blitz. On the snap, Captain Munnerlyn blitzed and Luke dropped back into man coverage on Jordan Matthews who was in the slot. Matthews got one step ahead of Kuechly and Luke could never close the gap. Matthews reeled in a 14-yard reception for a first down, extending a drive that ended with a field goal, cutting the Panthers lead to 6-3.
4th Quarter 2:43 – Panthers 6, Bills 3. Panthers ball 3rd-and-Goal at BUF 2
The Situation: The Panthers faced 3rd-and-Goal from the two yard line late in the game, nursing a precarious three point lead. A touchdown here would essentially win the game. A field goal would put the Panthers up just six and give Buffalo a final chance for a game-winning touchdown.
The Play: Carolina dialed up a pass and Newton scrambled to his right to escape pressure. Christian McCaffrey got open in the end zone crossing in front of Newton’s face. Cam overthrew McCaffrey by several feet on a short pass on what should have been an easy touchdown. Ugly, ugly pass by Cam. The Panthers had to settle for a field goal and a 9-3 lead.
Buffalo’s final drive nearly resulted in a game-winning TD but Tyrod Taylor’s pass on 4th-and-11 just slipped out of Zay Jones’ hands at the one yard line.
Closing It Out and Summing It Up
If it’s possible to have a frustrating win in the competitive NFL, this game was it.
Despite an incredible effort from the defense which gave up just three points, the Panthers still nearly lost on Buffalo’s final play that just slipped through Zay Jones’ hands near the goal line.
Major props to the defense. Carolina’s D obliterated LeSean McCoy (nine yards on 12 carries) and gave up just 176 net yards – 69 rushing and 107 passing. Mario Addison (four tackles, one sack) was fantastic against both the run and the pass while Julius Peppers recorded two sacks. On offense, Cam Newton looked quick on his feet evading pressure and breaking runs, while Devin Funchess stepped up with four big receptions for 68 yards.
As far as concerns go, offensive tackles Daryl Williams and Matt Kalil were awful in providing shoddy pass protection, failing to open holes on running plays, and getting flagged for penalties. For the second straight week Cam Newton overthrew a wide-open receiver with an ugly pass on a surefire touchdown, forcing the Panthers to settle for a field goal instead.
But the worst outcome from this game is the reported broken foot suffered by Greg Olsen.
Through two weeks the Panthers are undefeated and their defense has given up a total of six points.
Now if Carolina’s offense can just manage to consistently put points on the board, 2017 has the early makings of what could be a competitive season.
“P2L, P2H” Season Leaders
Plays to Love:
1 PTL – Cam Newton, Devin Funchess, Luke Kuechly, Mario Addison, Russell Shepard, Wes Horton
Plays to Hate:
3 PTH - Cam Newton
1 PTH - Christian McCaffrey, Daryl Williams, Luke Kuechly, Matt Kalil
Which Play to Love had the biggest impact on the Panthers victory:
This poll is closed
1st Quarter - Cam Newton’s 15-yard run sets up FG
2nd Quarter - Devin Funchess’ 21-yard reception sets up FG
3rd Quarter - Mario Addison stops Buffalo on 4th-and-1