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Big Mo: These momentum-shifting plays gave the Panthers a Week 1 win

The Panthers are 1-0 thanks in large part to a key sequence involving Yetur Gross-Matos and Robby Anderson.

NFL: New York Jets at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Mo series highlights the plays (or series of plays) that have the biggest impact on changing the Panthers win percentage as calculated by ESPN. Carolina started the season with a home win against the New York Jets in which the win percentage was in the Panthers favor from the first snap to the last snap. Here are the plays that swung momentum in the Panthers wire-to-wire win.


First, just look at that beautiful trend line! It’s not often we are going to see a chart like this where the Panthers had the highest win probability from the first snap to the last snap. Let’s enjoy this while we can.

Second quarter: Sam Darnold’s red zone fumble (+75% to +59%)

The Panthers started the game with a 67% win percentage and it hovered around that mark through a scoreless first quarter. Early in the second quarter Carolina faced a fourth-and-1 from the Jets four yard line and went for it. Sam Darnold fumbled after his botched handoff attempt ricocheted off the lead-blocking fullback. The Jets took possession and two plays later Zach Wilson connected with Corey Davis for a 35-yard gain to flip some momentum New York’s way.

Second quarter: Yetur’s stop and Robby’s touchdown (+63% to +82%)

These next back-to-back plays put the Panthers in the driver’s seat and they never ceded control from there. Carolina led 3-0 with 4:18 left in the second quarter. The Jets had the ball with fourth-and-1 at the Carolina 42 and went for it. Yetur Gross-Matos stuffed Tevin Coleman for a loss and a turnover on downs. On the next play from scrimmage Sam Darnold connected with Robby Anderson for a 57-yard touchdown and a 9-0 Panthers lead after a missed extra point. Momentum was firmly on Carolina’s side for the rest of the game after these two explosive plays.

Third quarter: The Jets finally score (+92% to +86%)

Late in the third quarter Zach Wilson converted on a third-and-2 to extend the Jets drive then ultimately connected with Corey Davis for a touchdown. Wilson then ran in a two-point conversion to cut the Panthers lead to 16-8. Despite cutting the Panthers lead to just one possession, it was a case of “too little, too late” for the Jets as Carolina’s win percentage dropped just six points from 92% to 86%.

Fourth quarter: Panthers 12-play drive salts it away (+86% to +96%)

After the Jets touchdown to trim the Panthers lead to 16-8, Carolina went on an impressive 12-play drive that consumed over six minutes of game time. The drive ended with a Panthers field goal and a 19-8 lead with just 8:44 remaining. This series nearly ended in a three-and-out but on third-and-6 DJ Moore came up with a clutch seven-yard reception to keep the chains moving in what turned out to be the drive that essentially put the game away for the Panthers.

The summary

While it’s gratifying to see the Panthers sitting at 1-0, this was a pretty rough week to debut the new “Big Mo” series. Most NFL games have a win percentage chart with a host of peaks and valleys as big plays happen and leads change, especially late in the game. For example, in Sunday’s Chiefs-Browns game the win probability went from 86% favoring the Browns with 10:24 remaining in the game to 88% favoring the Chiefs with 7:04 left. The Panthers win percentage chart was pretty flat against the Jets in Week 1, but I’ll take a boring win anytime.

I really liked the pressure generated by the Panthers defensive line. They dominated the Jets offensive line, eliminated the Jets running game, and left Zach Wilson generally scrambling for his life on most pass plays. In all the defense recorded 10 quarterback hits and six sacks in an outstanding performance. Haason Reddick and Brian Burns could each have double-digit sacks this year.

I didn’t like Ryan Santoso missing his first extra point in a Panthers uniform, the Panthers punting on fourth-and-6 from the New York 33 in the first quarter, and Christian McCaffrey’s 30 touches are way too many. Giving him that workload every week over a 17 game season - a total of 510 touches - will likely end with CMC in street clothes at some point.

NFL football is back and the Panthers are 1-0! Carolina’s victory produced a boring win percentage chart, and all we can do is hope for more of the same in the future.