The Carolina Panthers entered Week 10 with a 6-3 record and solid spot in the playoff race, but their criminal offense hasn’t been too steady and they’ve usually scraped by with strong defensive showings. So it was evidently an encouraging sign if they hosted the 4-4 Miami Dolphins on Monday nights and blew the doors off, scorching Miami in a 45-21 gain.
One of the primary keys to the Panthers’ rout was a good rejuvenated running game, with a combined 294 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries. That surface game will be a major factor in the years ahead as Carolina attempts to re-establish its offensive identity following the trade of Kelvin Benjamin.
It hasn’t been just one single man dominating all of the touches, but more of an ensemble cast featuring Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey, and Cam Newton. These three males form the key of a potentially spectacular attack, however they haven’t quite meshed mutually until Monday’s game. After that performance, we can visit a clear path forwards for this offense.
Stewart is the grizzled veteran, an old-school grinder who’s happy just pounding it up the middle. He’s as well 30 years aged and showing clear indications of decline, striking a low point last week with two lost fumbles against the Atlanta Falcons. However the instructors placed their faith and Stewart got to eat, picking aside the Dolphins for 110 yards on 17 carries and playing a huge role in the second half as the Panthers salted aside the game.
Certainly, Stewart is way past his prime and won’t get 100 yards weekly, but the Panthers need him to deliver in his role, and he accomplished that very well.
McCaffrey is nearly the polar contrary of Stewart, a good flashy pass-catching consultant who doesn’t quite excel between the tackles. His rookie 12 months hasn’t lit the globe on fire, but McCaffrey revealed glimpses of his immense potential on Monday, scoring two touchdowns and adding a mixed 50 total yards on eight touches (five carries, three catches).
Having already set the franchise record for receptions by a running back, McCaffrey has the instructors’ full trust in spite of not destroying defenses want he did for Stanford. He’s evidently struggled adjusting to the velocity of the NFL game, but if McCaffrey flips that swap and is devote the right spots, then look out.
Finally, there’s Newton, who had a newfound confidence and swagger against the Dolphins. We realize how dangerous Newton is definitely on the floor, and he revealed it once again with 95 rushing yards on five carries. But he remains a gifted passer on his best times, stinging the Dolphins with four touchdowns and 254 yards on 21-of-35 passing.
Newton will always have his poor practices – in the first quarter, he threw a good brutal red zone pass straight to the defense, which was almost an interception but got overturned on assessment. But when everything is going proper, Newton remains just about the most electrifying quarterbacks in soccer. We previously saw what he’s capable of during his 2015 MVP 12 months, and if that edition of Newton comes back, all of those other NFC ought to be on alert.
The Panthers are sitting pretty heading in to the holiday season. They now reach have fun with their bye week at 7-3, very well constantly in place for a Wild Cards spot but still a half-game behind the 7-2 SAINTS for the NFC South business lead. All eye will be on their Week 13 rematch, which could go a whole lot differently compared to the Week 3 game. There, the Saints blew out the Panthers, 34-13, and Carolina will be eager to avoid a repeat. They’ll give themselves an improved chance if the criminal offense can establish a more consistent identity.
It feels as though the Panthers remain underrated, which is understandable. Despite having Newton, they do not play the virtually all exciting brand of soccer (run the dang ball, play defense), and are susceptible to baffling missteps sometimes (that 17-3 reduction to the Chicago Bears genuinely sticks out just like a sore thumb now).
Still, Ron Rivera has always been steadfast in his vision, so when it’s executed very well, the Panthers are one of the league’s hardest groups to figure out. And when they can run the ball along with they does against Miami, in addition to a great defense, they’re practically unstoppable.
We’ll see if this plan is sustainable found in January, but for now, count out the Panthers at your own risk.