Plays to Love, Plays to Hate highlights the plays that have a significant impact in swinging momentum and impacting the eventual outcome of the game. There’s usually plenty to hate about NFL officiating, so we will only focus on the plays on the field, not the refs. Let’s review the momentum-shifting plays that led to the Panthers losing yet another close but unsuccessful game.
Three plays to love
Derrick sacks Rodgers before halftime: The Panthers were getting destroyed 21-3 when they were forced to punt with 1:05 left in the first half. Aaron Rodgers had more than enough time to add to Green Bay’s lead. But on first down Derrick Brown broke through the offensive line and dropped Rodgers for a six yard sack. The Packers could never get out of the second-and-16 hole and punted to end the half.
Burns and Brown sack Rodgers in the third: The Packers offense eviscerated Carolina’s defense for most of the first half. But, per above, the Panthers defense forced a punt to end the half. They then force a three-and-out on Green Bay’s first possession in the third quarter. On the Packers second possession of the third quarter, Carolina needed a stop on 3rd-and-2 to force another three-and-out. The Packers dialed up a pass and Brain Burns slid past his blocker to get a hand on Aaron Rodgers, forcing him to step up and into the waiting arms of Derrick Brown. Brown dropped the future Hall of Famer for a nine-yard loss as Green Bay punted from their own 14. Carolina’s offense then started with excellent field position and scored their first touchdown to cut the deficit to 21-10.
DJ’s catch and run late in the fourth: The Panthers trailed 24-13 and had the ball with 2:17 left in the game. On third-and-1 DJ Moore ran a quick slant, caught the ball between three defenders, got sandwiched by a trio of Packers, and bounced off all of them. DJ then sprinted 40 yards down to the Green Bay 15. Matt Rhule opted to kick a 33-yard field goal on the next play (on first down) to cut the deficit to one score at 24-16 with 2:08 left in the game. Following the field goal, Carolina’s defense got the stop it needed to give Teddy Bridgewater & Co. one last chance to tie the game, but they squandered it.
Three plays to hate
Joe Brady calls Teddy’s failed touchdown leap in the second: The Panthers trailed 14-3 midway through the second quarter and set themselves up nicely with a first-and-goal from the one yard line. Instead of sending battering ram Mike Davis through the line with Alex Armah paving the way, offensive coordinator Joe Brady decided to have Teddy Bridgewater try to leap over the pile and extend the ball for a touchdown. Teddy isn’t athletic. He isn’t big. This isn’t his forte. Unsurprisingly, Bridgewater had the ball jarred loose from his hands and lost a fumble. Making matters even worse, the Packers advanced the fumble 48 yards to the Carolina 47, setting up another touchdown. Yes, it was Teddy’s fumble, but blame goes to Brady for the questionable play call.
Penalty nullifies fumble touchdown in the fourth: Carolina trailed 21-10 with 9:36 left and had the ball at third-and-goal at the seven yard line. Teddy Bridgewater couldn’t find an open receiver so he tucked the ball and dove for the end zone. But once again, Teddy coughed up a fumble. This time, however, the Panthers recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown! Regrettably, John Miller was called for a hold which nullified the bizarre, lucky score. Carolina ultimately kicked a field goal to cut the deficit to 21-13, but Miller’s hold cost the team four points.
Two penalties derail a final game-tying drive: The Panthers trailed 24-16 and the defense produced a clutch three-and-out to force a Packers punt with 1:07 left. Pharoh Cooper returned the punt 11 yards to the Carolina 41, giving the offense great field position for a potential game-tying score, but Sam Franklin was flagged for a disastrous holding penalty which moved the ball back 21 yards to the Carolina 20. (Note: The same thing happened last week when Natrell Jamerson was called for a hold on a punt return with three minutes left, costing Carolina’s offense 23 yards on their potential game-winning drive!) Then, on the very next play, Teddy Bridgewater was called for intentional grounding for a 10-yard loss and a 10 second runoff. Instead of first-and-10 from the Carolina 41 (before Franklin’s holding penalty), it was now second-and-20 from the Carolina 10 with 37 seconds left. Game. Over.
Closing it out and summing it up
Special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn needs to take some serious heat for costly holding penalties on punt returns. In back-to-back weeks holding calls have cost the Panthers 23 yards and 21 yards, respectively, when getting the ball back for a potential game-winning drive (last week) or game-tying score (this week). That can’t happen.
Brian Burns, Jeremy Chinn, and Derrick Brown are special young talents. They were the key players in bottling up Aaron Rodgers with five sacks and just 143 passing yards. This trio gives the Panthers a defensive core to build around for the next decade, health and salary cap permitting.
An offense led by Teddy Bridgewater will never be bad enough to be a disaster, but it’s rarely good enough to go out and win games. He can move the ball between the 20 yard lines, then when the field is shortened the offense tightens up. And I’m still perplexed as to why Joe Brady continues to get buzz about being on some short lists as a potential head coach. It’s only because he’s young, and “young” is the hottest buzzword among head coaches today. It’s the equivalent of “synergy”, “futureproof”, and “omnichannel”. If Joe Brady was a 58-year-old offensive coordinator, his play calling and schemes would go largely unnoticed nationally. Besides the poor play call to have Teddy leap over the pile, Brady couldn’t scheme Curtis Samuel or Robby Anderson open in this one. The normally dynamic duo caught just six of 14 targets for 63 yards.
After a promising 3-2 start, the Panthers have now lost eight of their last nine games. It’s a deflating way to go out. We’ll see if they can pull it together against former coach Ron Rivera and the Washington Football Team in a winnable road game this coming Sunday.
Which play to hate had the biggest impact on the Panthers loss?
This poll is closed
Joe Brady calls Teddy’s failed TD leap in the 2nd
Penalty nullifies fumble TD in the 4th
Two penalties derail a final game-tying drive