It sure feels better when the Carolina Panthers win, doesn’t it? Yesterday’s 38-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals was an all-around impressive display by all three parts of the Panthers team. I was very happy with the offense, defense and special teams, especially in the second half. The Panthers got off to a bit of a slow start, but fortunately they woke up in the second half and put the game away when they needed to.
This week we’ve got a lot of players in the stock up section, and not much in the stock down section. That’s my preferred way to write this column, so hopefully the Panthers keep giving me reasons to do this.
On to the stock report...
There are so many people to point out here, so apologies if I forget anyone. I’m not going to go into extreme details here (otherwise this column will be way too long) so I’ll try to hit the highlights and be brief where possible.
Kyle Allen: It’s a tough task for a backup quarterback to come into a game on short notice, and while Allen probably knew all week that he was going to start (even if the team kept that information from the media), fans were well within their right to have low expectations going into yesterday’s game. But boy oh boy did Allen deliver a memorable performance. He was 19-of-26 for 261 yards, FOUR touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was 144.4 (Unfortunately it didn’t make it to 150; that would have been excellent.) and his ESPN QBR was 90.4 (I still don’t love that stat but it’s worth pointing out that even ESPN thought he played well).
The only negative thing I can say about Allen’s game was the fumble on the first drive, and I’m not entirely sure it was his fault. He probably could have thrown the ball away, but I think it’s at worst a 50-50 share of the blame with the offensive line. Aside from that one bad thing, Allen was everything you could ever want from a backup quarterback in a spot start. And yes, this was a spot start. He’s not taking Cam Newton’s job if Newton is healthy. There is no quarterback controversy yet. This was one game, and while it was a good game, it was still one game against a lower level team with hardly any film on Allen. So let’s pump the brakes on the ‘we have a new quarterback’ takes, okay? And no, I’m not saying you can’t be happy for Allen. In fact, you SHOULD be happy for him. He played well and deserves to be celebrated. I’m just saying let’s hold off on crowning him as the new franchise quarterback. We’re not ready for that yet.
If he’s 100 percent healthy, Cam is still the starter, but one thing’s certain — the Panthers at least have a decent option at backup quarterback for a few games if Cam’s not quite ready to play. I’m not sure what the coaching staff wants to do yet, but I wouldn’t be mad if they decided to let Cam have one more week off to ensure he’s 100 percent ready to go for the rest of the season. I think Allen can hold down the fort for one more game if necessary, especially if the end result is a fully healed Cam Newton.
DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel: Both receivers played well yesterday and both found the end zone. Moore had an impressive 52-yard touchdown reception where he displayed his immense run after the catch ability, and Samuel worked his way open in the back of the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter. Samuel also made what was arguably his best catch in a Panthers uniform to set up Greg Olsen’s second touchdown of the day when the snagged a ball out of the air and got both feet down at the Cardinals three-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter. I like what both of these guys bring to the offense and can’t wait to see more of them.
Christian McCaffrey: Mr. Everything was everywhere for the Panthers offense yesterday. He rushed for 153 yards on 24 carries (including a 76-yard touchdown run where he juked a defender right out of his cleats) and caught three passes for another 35 yards. You already know the story: CMC is pretty good, and the Panthers are lucky to have him as a focal point of their offense because he truly is a Swiss Army knife player.
Greg Olsen: The ageless wonder’s still got it, y’all. He caught six balls for 75 yards and two touchdowns. His first touchdown gave the Panthers a 21-17 lead in the third quarter, and his second one gave Carolina a 35-20 lead that helped seal the victory in the fourth quarter. The only bad thing I can say about Olsen is that he was on my bench in fantasy football, but that’s more my fault than his. (In my defense, I also have George Kittle.)
Christian Miller and Brian Burns: Both of our rookie edge rushers had good games yesterday, and Miller picked up his first two (of hopefully many) career sacks. Burns also added another sack to his tally, and both players showed why the Panthers were so high on them during the draft process. I like what I’m seeing from these two players and hope that we continue to see more of it as the season goes on.
Donte Jackson: Action Jackson had two picks yesterday, the second of which was one of the most impressive feats of athleticism I’ve ever seen from a Panthers defender. It reminded me of that Josh Norman interception in the end zone against the New Orleans Saints a few years ago. Holy smokes that dude can get up in the air can’t he? (ICYMI: Yes, he can.)
Mario Addison: The crafty veteran proved that he’s still got it with three sacks. In case you’re keeping count, Kyler Murray got sacked a lot, which is a good thing if you’re a Panthers fan (and you probably are if you’re still reading this).
Shaq Thompson and Luke Kuechly: The two stud linebackers were all over the place yesterday, combining for 21 tackles (11 for Shaq, 10 for Luke), one sack, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit (all Shaq). We need these two guys to be the glue that holds the defense together, and they were exactly that against the Cardinals.
Eric Reid: Reid played well yesterday with six tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack and one quarterback hit. I’d like to see more of this, please!
This section’s gonna be light, y’all. There’s not much that I can complain about, at least not enough to fill out this section of the column, so I’m just gonna point out one player and then a miscellaneous grab bag of goodies at the end. Is that okay? Good.
Daryl Williams: The experiment has to be over at this point. He’s not a left tackle. When he was in at left tackle, the offense struggled. When Greg Little was in at left tackle, the offense soared. Watch the tape, Ron. Use it to make the right decision. Please, we’re begging you.
Miscellaneous defense: I didn’t like the first half defense as much as the second half defense, because it seemed like the Panthers took a while to figure out how to stop Kyler Murray. There were moments where the tackling was a bit suspect (like when David Johnson scored early in the third quarter), and I thought Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald were open more times than I’d like to see. Other than that I thought the defense was pretty good.
Miscellaneous offense: I wasn’t a fan of Kyle Allen’s fumble and the ensuing touchdown, but fortunately the Panthers shook it off and took control of the game in the second half. I also wish that Ron Rivera would have gone for two when the Panthers took a 28-20 lead to give the Panthers a two-score lead instead of a one-score lead. The only downside to going for two is that you’re up seven instead of eight if you fail, and the benefit is that you’re up nine if you succeed. It ended up not mattering, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the thought process there.
Overall this was a great game for the Panthers and it’s good to see them pick up their first win of 2019. Hopefully this performance gives them a much-needed confidence boost they can build on to pick up their second win next week when they hit the road to face the Houston Texans.