The 2020 Carolina Panthers are unique in the history of Charlotte’s mildly storied franchise in that they absolutely hate punting. This all started when two stats crossed my path. First came this, via the Charlotte Observer’s Alaina Getzenberg: the Carolina Panthers have the fewest three and outs in the NFL through nine weeks. Second, there have been 35 players who recorded a punt this season. The Panthers’ Joseph Charlton ranks 32nd on that list for number of punts with 18. Put another way, the Panthers have punted the least of any team this season and they’re taking their sweet time on the field when they do.
Interesting stat of the day. The Panthers have the lowest three-and-out percentage in the NFL.— Alaina Getzenberg (@agetzenberg) November 9, 2020
Only 7 of 84 offensive series (8.3%) have ended after three plays.
The Panthers are also tied for seventh fewest punts forced in the league with 24. And that’s with a defense that, injuries aside, we have all noted as ‘surprisingly decent.’ Those stats are also padded with some heavier punting games at the start of the season. The Arizona Cardinals punted five times against the Panthers in Week 4. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Chargers punted four times each in Weeks 2 and 3. That’s over half of the team’s punts in just one third of their games played so far.
The New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, and Kansas City Chiefs have combined for two whole punts against the Panthers in the same amount of time. If teams grow into their identity as a season progresses then the Panthers are confidently stepping into the mantle of punt-hatingest team in the league.
A fair amount of this is league-wide trends, to be sure. This has been a rough year for punting as offenses have been on record breaking paces across the NFL. But it is also indicative of a brand new philosophy in Charlotte that fans ought to note. The last eighteen years of coaches lived and died by the idea that a punt is not a bad play. Matt Rhule seems to think this team can do better than ‘not a bad play’ on offense. There’s a reason he has faked two punts in as many weeks. Maybe, if we’re lucky as fans, that means we’ll get to see more plays that are just good.