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Big Mo: The most awful plays in a terrible loss to the Dolphins in Week 12

Let’s look at the biggest plays in swinging momentum in the Panthers putrid loss to the Dolphins.

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Carolina Panthers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

The Big Mo series highlights the plays (or series of plays) that had the biggest impact on swinging the Panthers win probability as calculated by ESPN. In Week 12 the Carolina Panthers were simply awful in all three phases of the game. Four if you count coaching. With their playoffs hopes still somewhat alive, the 5-6 Panthers went on the road to face a 4-7 Dolphins team and got destroyed. It’s time to start looking forward to the 2022 draft. Here’s the uninspiring win probability chart:


Here’s how the wheels fell off against the Dolphins:

First quarter 9:11 - Panthers 0, Dolphins 0

Dolphins blocked punt touchdown (56% to 38% Panthers win probability): Carolina’s first offensive possession resulted in a three-and-out (thanks to two DJ Moore drops) and they were forced to punt from their own nine yard line. Chuba Hubbard and Frankie Luvu had a miscommunication on their blocking assignments and Duke Riley came untouched to block the punt. Miami recovered in the end zone for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

First quarter 8:24 - Panthers 0, Dolphins 7

DJ Moore gets 64 yards (35% to 50% Panthers win probability): After the disastrous blocked punt the Panthers offense faced a potential three-and-out with third-and-6 from their own 29. Cam Newton hit DJ Moore for a huge 64-yard catch-and-run to set up an eventual touchdown and a 7-7 score. The Panthers win probability spiked 15 points to 50%.

Second quarter 11:24 - Panthers 7, Dolphins 7

Cam’s back-to-back interceptions (44% to 23% Panthers win probability): Cam threw an interception but Miami was forced to punt after taking possession. Then, on his very next pass, Cam threw another pick, but this one hurt. The Dolphins took possession at the Carolina nine yard line after the interception and scored a touchdown for a 14-7 lead. At this point Cam had thrown two completions to his teammates and two picks to Dolphins defenders.

Second quarter 0:12 - Panthers 7, Dolphins 21

Dolphins fumble gives the Panthers a field goal (10% to 18% Panthers win probability): In a crazy sequence of events, in the waning seconds of the second quarter the Dolphins had driven down to the Carolina 27 and were in field goal range. But with just 12 seconds left the shotgun snap to Tua Tagovailoa skidded along the ground and Frankie Luvu recovered the fumble and ran all the way down to the Miami 23. Luvu was tackled with one second left in the half, setting up a field goal for the Panthers in what was essentially a six-point swing.

Third quarter 8:47 - Panthers 10, Dolphins 21

Dolphins score touchdown on 13-play drive (12% to 1% Panthers win probability): Carolina trailed by 11 halfway through the third quarter. The Panthers defense forced the Dolphins into a third-and-6 from the Miami 49, but Jaylen Waddle beat Donte Jackson for a first down. Miami went on to score a touchdown on a long, long drive (but missed the extra point) for a 27-10 lead and a 99% win probability. Game over.

Big Mo MVP - Nobody

This isn’t just me being a pouty fan who takes sports too seriously, either. There wasn’t a single player whose performance jumped out at me to the degree that it deserved this meaningless award.

What I liked

  • On the game’s first series, Brian Burns getting a tackle for loss followed by a sack to push the Dolphins out of field goal range.
  • The successful fake punt early in the third quarter on a direct snap to Sean Chandler for a first down. The drive eventually stalled and the Panthers were forced to punt, but their terrible offense needed a jolt and this play had the chance to provide it.

What I didn’t like

  • Starting Dennis Daley over Brady Christensen at left tackle. I’m tired of banging the drum of getting Christensen more experience at this vital position that has bedeviled the Panthers for years. Daley got beat a handful of times against Miami and has a PFF grade of 54.1 on the season. Christensen has a PFF grade of 60.7 (a grade in the 60s is considered “average”) playing both tackle and guard this year. I know PFF isn’t always perfect, but I think Christensen has been better than Daley so the PFF grades fit my narrative. Why not invest snaps in a somewhat promising rookie in Christensen, double down on his development this offseason, and see if he can be a capable starter at left tackle next year? Dennis Daley clearly isn’t the future at that position. I just don’t get it.
  • After a bogus first quarter roughing the passer call on Haason Reddick, Fox showed an on-screen graphic that said the Panthers 81 penalties is most in the NFL through Week 11. That’s...not good.
  • Cam Newton looking awful, then getting benched for PJ Walker who looked awful-er.
  • Haason Reddick getting a taunting penalty in the third quarter after the Panthers defense was getting their butts kicked all day. What could he possibly have been taunting the Dolphins about? Miami would’ve been facing a third-and-14 if not for this dumb move. The penalty gifted the Dolphins a first down and they ultimately scored a touchdown to put the game out of reach at 27-10. Thanks, Haason.
  • Christian McCaffrey suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

The Panthers are now 2-7 over their last nine games and are somehow getting worse each week. I thought the Week 11 loss to Washington would be the season’s low point. I was wrong. Against Miami the Panthers rented an excavator and dug even deeper, darker, danker resting place.

Carolina has a bye coming up in Week 13, meaning Panthers fans will be spared a third consecutive week of watching ineffective, uninspiring, and generally boring football.