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Panthers 30 Raiders 34: 3 plays to love, 3 plays to hate from Carolina’s Week 1 loss

These key plays swung momentum and decided the Panthers 34-30 home loss against the Las Vegas Raiders, putting Carolina’s record at 0-1.

Las Vegas Raiders v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Plays to Love, Plays to Hate highlights the sometimes overlooked plays that have a significant impact in swinging momentum and impacting the eventual outcome of the game. For example, instead of highlighting a memorable touchdown, we spotlight the third down conversion that extended the drive that enabled the score. There’s always plenty to hate about NFL officiating, so we will only focus on the plays on the field, not the refs.

Let’s review how the Carolina Panthers lost Matt Rhule’s debut in a 34-30 home loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1.

Three plays to love

Chinn’s open field tackle: The Panthers led 9-7 with 9:50 left in the second quarter. The Raiders had the ball at the Panthers seven yard line and were knocking on the door for a touchdown. On second down running back Devontae Booker released into the right flat as Jeremy Chinn chased him in coverage. Booker caught a short pass and the Panthers versatile rookie was on an island - he either made the stop by himself or the Raiders would score an easy touchdown. Chinn made a nice open field tackle and Las Vegas was ultimately forced to kick a field goal to take a 10-9 lead.

Teddy + Thomas = Two minute drill: The Panthers took possession with 1:54 left in the second quarter trailing 17-12, allowing the offense to run a two minute drill. Carolina was facing a three-and-out when Ian Thomas hauled in a five-yard reception to extend the drive. Three plays later Thomas picked up 11 yards to get to the Raiders 30 and set up a field goal to reduce the Panthers halftime deficit to 17-15. It left me optimistic to see the new offense come together for a solid two minute drill.

McCaffrey converts 3rd-and-14: The Panthers trailed 27-15 to start the fourth quarter and faced 3rd-and-14 at the Raiders 29. Carolina desperately needed a touchdown on this drive to keep the game close. Teddy Bridgewater kept his composure in the pocket, went through his progressions, saw no receivers open, and dumped off a short pass to Christian McCaffrey in the left flat. CMC scampered for 16 yards and a first down, extending a drive that ended with a McCaffrey touchdown to keep the Panthers in striking distance at 27-22.

Three plays to hate

Ruggs burns Boston and Burris: In the first quarter, Henry Ruggs III ran a deep in route. Safety Juston Burris cheated underneath to double team another receiver as Ruggs ran to the wide open space Burris vacated. Tre Boston tried to cover Ruggs but the Raiders rookie used his blazing speed to get huge separation and haul in a 45-yard gain to the Carolina one yard line. The Raiders scored on the next play to take a 7-3 lead.

Whitehead’s pass interference: The Panthers led 30-27 with 5:06 left in the game. The Raiders faced 3rd-and-8 from the Carolina 35. Tahir Whitehead had Hunter Renfrow in tight man coverage with excellent help over the top from Rasul Douglas, but Whitehead inexplicably dove into Renfrow before the ball arrived for a backbreaking pass interference penalty. Instead of facing fourth down, the Raiders now had 1st-and-10 from the Carolina 17. They ultimately scored a touchdown with 4:08 left in the game to go up 34-30, which proved to be the final score.

Armah stuffed on fourth-and-1: Carolina trailed 34-30 with the ball at the Las Vegas 46 with 1:22 remaining. A touchdown on this drive almost assuredly wins the game. Facing 4th-and-1 the Panthers went into an I-formation as the Raiders stacked the box. The handoff shockingly went to fullback Alex Armah who was stuffed at the line of scrimmage for a turnover on downs. Game over. In his career, Armah has 15 carries for 26 yards. Christian McCaffrey has averaged nearly five yards per carry over the last two seasons. The decision to take the ball out of CMC’s hands in favor of Alex Amrah was a terrible decision by Joe Brady and/or Matt Rhule. Had this play call happened under the Ron Rivera regime, many of us would’ve marched to Mint Street with pitchforks and torches in hand.

Closing it out and summing it up

Like so many football games, the Panthers could’ve won this one had just a few plays turned out differently. But was Walker articluated in Monday Morning Optimist, this loss feels different, in a good way. It was great to see so many young defensive players get so many snaps and play so well on the whole. And when the young guys didn’t execute, the hope is this year’s miscues lead to veteran savvy in a couple of years.

This probably won’t be the only time this season when the offense puts up enough points to win, but the young, revamped defense gives up just enough points to lose. I’ve previously written that I’m okay with a 5-11 season as long as it comes with reasons to hope for a more competitive future. The Panthers are 0-1, and I have hope.


Which play had the biggest impact on the Panthers loss?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Ruggs burns Boston and Burris
    (13 votes)
  • 52%
    Whitehead’s pass interference
    (219 votes)
  • 44%
    Armah stuffed on fourth-and-1
    (183 votes)
415 votes total Vote Now