Plays to Love, Plays to Hate 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
2nd Quarter 13:43 – Panthers 14, Jaguars 7. Jaguars ball 3rd-and-6 at CAR 34
The Situation: Early in the second quarter Jacksonville had driven into field goal range, looking to chip into the Panthers 14-7 lead.
The Play: Gardner Minshew dropped to pass. Mario Addison pushed former Panthers guard Andrew Norwell straight backward and Norwell’s body knocked the football loose from Minshew. Brian Burns scooped up the fumble and raced 56 yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
3rd Quarter 14:01 – Panthers 21, Jaguars 17. Panthers ball 1st-and-10 at CAR 16
The Situation: Carolina took a 21-17 lead into the half. On Carolina’s first offensive play of the second half, Christian McCaffrey made history.
The Play: CMC took a handoff left and the Panthers entire offensive line crashed left. McCaffrey saw a cutback lane that was opened to his right by excellent blocks from Taylor Moton and Matt Paradis. McCaffrey bolted through the hole and sprinted 84 yards for the longest rushing touchdown in Panthers history. Carolina now led 28-17.
4th Quarter 3:46 – Panthers 28, Jaguars 27. Panthers ball 1st-and-10 at CAR 41
The Situation: Late in the game the Panthers lead had been trimmed from 14 to just one point. Christian McCaffrey left the field with cramps and was replaced by seldom-used Reggie Bonnafon.
The Play: As Panthers fans fretted over McCaffrey’s absence, Reggie Bonnafon took matters into his own hands. He took a simple handoff through a nice hole up the middle, juked the safety, and broke off a shocking 59-yard touchdown run. The Panthers now led 34-27 after Joey Slye missed the extra point.
Three plays to hate
4th Quarter 12:06 – Panthers 28, Jaguars 24. Panthers ball 3rd-and-1 at JAX 5
The Situation: Early in the fourth quarter the Panthers were just five yards away from a potential touchdown and a 35-24 lead. Facing 3rd-and-1, Norv Turner just needed to call a play to convert the first down then punch it into the end zone.
The Play: Norv Turner decided to ask the NFL’s best running back in Christian McCaffre to pass the ball instead of running it. The trick play fooled nobody and failed. Then on 4th-and-1 the Panthers called a predictable running play that resulted in a two-yard loss and change of possession. Failing to get at least a field goal here nearly doomed the Panthers late.
4th Quarter 2:33 – Panthers 34, Jaguars 27. Jaguars ball 2nd-and-10 at CAR 39
The Situation: Trailing by seven points late in the game, Brian Burns strip-sacked Gardner Minshew and Marquise Haynes returned the fumble to the Jacksonville 40.
The Play: During Haynes’ fumble return, Matt Paradis was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for coming onto the field. Instead of the Panthers starting at the Jacksonville 40 (near field goal range) they were forced to start at their own 45. The loss of field position may have cost the Panthers a field goal attempt to go up by 10 late in the game.
4th Quarter 0:19 – Panthers 34, Jaguars 27. Jaguars ball 1st-and-10 at CAR 34
The Situation: With 19 seconds left the Panthers committed an unprecedented back-to-back-to-back Plays to Hate trifecta, basically writing a book called “How to try to lose an NFL game on the last play, yet somehow still win!”
Play 1 - With 19 seconds and following a Jags incompletion in the end zone on a contested pass, Ron Rivera called an inexplicable timeout which gave the replay booth extra time to review the previous play for defensive pass interference. Fortunately, no review occurred, but why open that door, Ron?
Play 2 - With 10 seconds left Eric Reid sealed the victory with an interception! Umm...no. Mario Addison was called for illegal hands to the face and the Jags were given new life from the Carolina 29.
Play 3 - With two seconds left the Jags next attempt at a touchdown fell incomplete for a Panthers win! Umm...no. This time Brian Burns was called for offsides and the Jags were given an untimed down from the Carolina 24.
Finally, Luke Kuechly emphatically (angrily?) knocked down the Jaguars final pass attempt to tie or win the game. It’s hard enough to win once, guys. Please don’t make yourselves win three different times anytime soon.
Closing it out and summing it up
The Panthers have now won three straight and sit with a competitive 3-2 record.
On offense, Christian McCaffrey was incredible (237 total yards, three touchdowns) but reminded us with his cramps that he is also mortal and is being overworked. A patchwork offensive line played very well despite not having Trai Turner and Greg Little. Major props to rookie Dennis Daley for filling in admirably at right guard. Kyle Allen continues to be a perfectly capable game manager (which is great!) giving the Panthers more than they could’ve hoped for from a second-year undrafted free agent playing the hardest position in professional sports.
On defense, Luke Kuechly (12 tackles) continues to amaze and Mario Addision recorded yet another sack. Eric Reid had a great game with 10 tackles, two passes defended, one fumble recovery, and the would-be game-winning interception that was nullified by a penalty. Rookie Brian Burns recorded a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and scored a touchdown this week and continues to flash Pro Bowl potential.
Joey Slye caused us to pump the brakes on his hype train this week. His blocked 56-yard attempt isn’t anything to worry about, but his 46-yard miss was bad and his shanked extra point in the fourth quarter was deeply troubling. Dude got the yips! Let’s hope he recovers.
With three straight wins, life is good! A key divisional matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London now awaits.
Which Play to Love had the biggest impact on the Panthers win?
This poll is closed
2nd quarter - Brian Burns defensive TD
3rd quarter - CMC’s 84-yard TD run
4th quarter - Bonnafon’s 59-yard TD run