Newton continued his strong 2018 season with 19/25 passes completed for 247 yards and two touchdowns, accompanied by 33 yards rushing. The Panthers offense came out swinging early and much of that had to do with Newton’s arm, getting the team into redzone scoring chances. The team capitalized with 2 rushing touchdowns by Christian McCaffery, a beautiful reverse and run by Curtis Samuel, and a short yardage burst by Alex Armah to put the Panthers up 35-14 heading into the half. Cam didn’t have to carry the entire offense, and instead kept the engine running til they turned their other options loose.
Cam Newton may be the driving force behind this offense, but McCaffery is the engine. Two touchdowns rushing, 17 attempts for 79 yards and an average of 4.6 yards per carry, coupled with 5 receptions for 78 yards. The Panthers have two players who can damn near single handedly take over on offense, and both showed up today, and they appear to only be getting better.
Ol’ reliable showed up today, with a team leading 6 receptions for 76 yards and a TD, which turned out to be a beautiful one hand catch-and-corral in the endzone within a tight window. We’ve all seen Olsen as the number one target for Cam over the last several years, but now that he’s got other dangerous options around him defenses cannot simply key on him as the hot route every play. This may be Olsen’s last season, and he’s swinging for the fences because of it.
Addison got some assists from the rest of the defense, as both Dontari Poe and Eric Reid created pressure that forced Ryan Fitzpatrick to try and get away. Thankfully, Mario Addison was always there to clean it up. While this Panthers defense certainly isn’t the elite unit we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, a good defense cleans up pressure plays with sacks when the first rusher doesn’t get there. Have a day, Mario. Have a DAY.
Before I even get into the breakdown of his play, let’s just appreciate this;
Mike Evans: 10 targets, 1 reception, 16 yards
Dude. Bradberry shut a Pro Bowl wide receiver down badly today. Between pressing him to cause miscues, several batted passes, and sticking to him like white on rice, Bradberry took away one of Tampa Bay’s best and most consistent offensive weapons. You may not love Bradberry, but he showed today that receivers with Mike Evans’ athletic profile are his bread and butter as far as one on one coverage is concerned. Expect Carolina to trust him a bit more with press coverage going forward.
I wouldn’t even say Cap played a particularly bad game today, but Adam Humphries out of the slot was a big problem for Carolina today. They paid Munnerlyn a fairly lucrative free agent contract specifically to defend these kinds of guys. While he wasn’t on Humphries every time he caught a pass, I’d like to see better from a veteran and supposed high end nickel corner here. 8 receptions for a third receiver is not good, and inexcusable for a defense trying to play more aggressively.
Second Half defensive play calling
I do understand playing a little more conservative with a big lead, but Ryan Fitzpatrick demonstrated in transparent fashion that when a good defense gets after him he makes bad decisions. I was happy that the Panthers continued to dial up the blitz, but it was clear that the Bucs wide receivers struggled when the Panthers played press coverage. I’m not saying they totally abandoned that, cause they didn’t, but if you want to try and coverage sack a quarterback, maybe try to disrupt their timing a little more often? Can’t hurt with a 21 point lead coming out of half time.
The Panthers won in convincing fashion, and the “losers” were more nitpicks than outright bad. That said, a team like the Saints won’t let Carolina go up by 17 so easily. Who did you like/not like today?