The Big Mo series highlights the plays (or series of plays) that had the biggest impact on swinging the Panthers win percentage as calculated by ESPN. In Week 6 Carolina looked terrible, then came back, then lost 34-28 in overtime in a bad home loss to the Minnesota Vikings. After starting the season 3-0, the Panthers have skidded to 3-3.
Man, what a crazy rollercoaster win percentage chart! Late in the first quarter the Panthers had a 65% win percentage. In the early second quarter the Vikings jumped out to a 72% win percentage. Midway through the third quarter momentum shifted back to the Panthers at 71%. Minnesota owned the fourth quarter with win percentages in the 80s and 90s until Carolina somewhat miraculously forced overtime.
Panthers fans were taken on an emotional journey from optimistic to concerned to pumped to resigned to freaking elated to dead on the inside. Such is life for fans of a middling football team.
First quarter 7:35 - Panthers 7, Vikings 3
Defense can’t force three-and-out (65% to 44% Panthers win percentage): The Panthers had just gone up 7-3 on a Chuba Hubbard touchdown and grabbed a 65% win percentage. Carolina’s defense took the field and nearly forced a three-and-out but gave up a seven yard reception on 3rd-and-7, just enough for the Vikings to extend the drive. Seven plays later Minnesota kicked a field goal to trim the Panthers lead to 7-6 but Minnesota was now favored to win.
Third quarter 6:56 - Panthers 10, Vikings 12
Frankie Luvu’s blocked punt touchdown (43% to 71% Panthers win percentage): In one of the most spectacular, momentum-shifting plays of the year, Frankie Luvu came up the middle for a perfectly executed blocked punt which the Panthers recovered for a touchdown. Kudos as well to rookie cornerback Keith Taylor with back-to-back pass breakups to keep Minnesota punting from their own 24. Carolina now led 17-10 and their win percentage spiked 28 points to 71%.
Third quarter 5:28 - Panthers 17, Vikings 12
Fullback rumble and DJ’s fumble (70% to 18% Panthers win percentage): Carolina led 17-12 with 5:28 left in the third quarter with a hefty 70% win percentage. Minnesota faced a third-and-1 from their own 30. Fullback CJ Ham took a handoff right up the middle, juked Sean Chandler, and rumbled 30 yards to the Carolina 40. Two plays later the Vikings scored a touchdown (the two-point conversion failed) to take an 18-17 lead. Then on the Panthers next offensive play, DJ Moore lost a fumble at the Carolina 39 yard line. Four plays later the Vikings scored another touchdown to take a 25-17 lead. In approximately three minutes of game time the Panthers win percentage went from 70% to 18%. Talk about whiplash.
Fourth quarter 2:09 - Panthers 20, Vikings 28
The Panthers miraculous 96-yard drive (0.5% to 40% Panthers win percentage): Yes, friends, you read that correctly — the Vikings had a 99.5% win percentage when the Panthers took possession at their own four yard line trailing 28-20 with 2:09 left to play. Sam Darnold channeled his inner John Elway by converting on fourth-and-10 early in the drive then later delivering on fourth-and-6 to set up an eventual Robby Anderson touchdown. He then hit Tommy Tremble for the two-point conversion to force a 28-28 tie with 42 seconds left. Carolina’s 0.5% win percentage jumped to 40%.
But the Panthers new-found hope was for naught. After the Vikings missed a potential game-winning 47 yard field goal at the end of regulation, Minnesota won the toss to begin overtime and marched straight down the field for a walk-off touchdown.
Big Mo MVP - Frankie Luvu
If the Panthers had held on to win this game it would’ve been due to Luvu’s huge blocked punt for a touchdown. Carolina’s offense was garbage in the second half until the final 96-yard drive. Luvu’s momentum-shifting play in the doldrums of the third quarter was the shot in the arm the team needed to get going. On the season, Luvu has been a really nice acquisition for the Panthers. In his three seasons with the New York Jets his total tackles were 22, 12, and 25. Through six games with the Panthers he has 11 tackles (on pace for a career high), one sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and the punt block. Luvu looks like a keeper.
What I liked
- Fifth round rookie Keith Taylor completely balling out with 10 tackles, three pass break-ups, and a forced fumble.
- AJ Boyue looking strong again with six tackles, one pass defended, and a forced fumble. His shoe-string tackle to prevent a Dalvin Cook two-point conversion was awesome.
- Ian Thomas’s spectacular 41-yard gain on fourth-and-10 late in the fourth quarter.
- Feeling some optimism after the 96-yard touchdown drive that maybe the offense can turn things around next week.
What I didn’t like
- Over the last eight games Joe Brady’s offense has scored the following points in the third quarter: 0, 0, 0, 0, 7, 0, 0, 0. I’m going to continue to post this stat every week until the offense scores a third quarter touchdown.
- Sam Darnold throwing a terrible interception on the first play of the game when he had great protection. It was less of a referendum on one play and more of a sinking feeling enveloping Panthers fans of “Yeah, he’s probably not the answer.”
- The clown show at the end of the second quarter that cost the Panthers a field goal attempt. Carolina faced third-and-10 from the Minnesota 35 and called a timeout with 1:02 left. Somehow there were issues with the play call and Sam Darnold tried to call a second consecutive timeout, which resulted in a delay of game and a five-yard penalty. On the next play John Miller was flagged for a hold. Carolina now faced third-and-25 from midfield and ended up punting.
- Watching the Panthers once vaunted defense get zero sacks on 48 Kirk Cousins pass attempts.
- DJ Moore and Robby Anderson both having the worst games I can remember on the same day.
The Panthers are 3-3 which is right where I had them in my pre-season week-by-week predictions. This is a young team with young coaches, a patchwork offensive line, and a quarterback who has never had success. The 3-0 start against undermanned opponents perhaps got some of our expectations up too high. I predicted Carolina would go 7-10 this year and that still seems about right under the circumstances.
Carolina is an early 2.5-point favorite on the road against the New York Giants in Week 7. Scoring a few third quarter points would really help the cause.