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by Kevin Neufing
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Plays to Love
, Plays to Hate (aka “P2L, P2H”) looks at the most significant plays in swinging momentum and impacting the eventual outcome of the game. There is always plenty to hate about NFL officiating, so we will only focus on the plays on the field, not the refs.Three plays to love1st Quarter 1:29 – Panthers 7, Browns 7. Browns ball 2nd-and-12 at CLE 12The Situation: The Browns were backed up to their own 12 yard line late in the first quarter of a 7-7 game.The Play: Rashard Higgins caught a short pass and was nailed by Luke Kuechly. Luke stripped the ball from Higgins and Thomas Davis recovered at the Cleveland 17. Kuechly’s forced fumble led to a Panthers touchdown and a 14-7 lead.2nd Quarter 8:22 – Panthers 14, Browns 14. Panthers ball 1st-and-10 at CAR 18The Situation: The Browns had just evened the score at 14 with a 51-yard bomb. On the first play of the Panthers next drive, D.J. Moore did his thing. The Play: Moore caught a 10-yard quick slant with Cleveland defenders surrounding him. Moore spun away from the first tackler then broke three more tackles en route to a spectacular 40 yard catch and run to the Cleveland 42. This was the key play in setting up a Panthers field goal and a 17-14 lead. 3rd Quarter 10:41 – Panthers 17, Browns 17. Panthers ball 4th-and-1 at CLE 45The Situation: Facing 4th-and-1 on the wrong side of midfield, Ron Rivera & Co. decided to trust the offense and go for it.The Play: The Panthers lined up with a jumbo set, signaling a predictable quarterback sneak or a power run. Instead, Cam Newton went play action and hit Ian Thomas for a nine yard gain. This drive ultimately ended with a field goal and a 20-17 Panthers lead.Three plays to hate2nd Quarter 8:35 – Panthers 14, Browns 7. Browns ball 3rd-and-17 at CLE 49The Situation: Carolina was up by seven points in the second quarter and forced Cleveland into a 3rd-and-17 from near midfield.The Play: As per usual, the Panthers defense botched a third-and-a-mile scenario. This time Baker Mayfield felt pressure, rolled left to buy time, and uncorked a perfect bomb to Jarvis Landry for a 51-yard touchdown. Landry beat Eric Reid who was close in coverage, but not close enough to stop the incredibly accurate pass for a momentum-shifting score. 3rd Quarter 14:52 – Panthers 17, Browns 17. Panthers ball 1st-and-10 at CLE 32The Situation: Luke Kuechly stripped Jarvis Landry on the first play of the third quarter and the Panthers recovered at the Cleveland 32. The Carolina offense was given a gift to break the 17-17 tie.The Play(s): There are three plays to hate on this clown show of a sequence. On 1st-and-10 Norv Turner thought it was a good idea to have D.J. Moore block Myles Garrett with no help. Not surprisingly, Garrett abused Moore and dropped Christian McCaffrey for an eight yard loss. Later, on 3rd-and-13, Devin Funchess ran open on a seam route but never turned his head to see the quick release from Cam Newton. If Funch turns around he likely picks up big yards here. Next, on fourth down, the Panthers lined up for a 52-yard field goal but were called for a delay of game. Off came the field goal unit and on came the punt team. Carolina started at the Cleveland 32 and ended up punting. Ridiculous. 3rd Quarter 8:30 – Panthers 17, Browns 17. Panthers ball 2nd-and-Goal at CLE 3The Situation: After Ian Thomas converted on 4th-and-1 the Panthers drove down to the Cleveland three yard line. The Play: Christian McCaffrey took a handoff off the left side and pranced into the end zone for a touchdown and an apparent 24-17 Panthers lead. But the joy - and the touchdown - was nullified by a holding penalty on Taylor Moton. Carolina could never overcome the 10-yard penalty and were forced to settle for a field goal. Moton’s penalty cost the team four points.Closing it out and summing it upOnce again the Panthers were horrible stopping third-and-long situations. In addition to Jarvis Landry’s 51-yard score on 3rd-and-17, Carolina also gave up a conversion on 3rd-and-9 late in the second quarter followed by a 3rd-and-10 that should have been an easy touchdown but Rashard Higgins just dropped it. I’m sick of our corners being two steps out of position and both safeties being two seconds too late with help over the top.Did I “hate” Cam Newton missing Jarius Wright on 4th-and-Goal from the three yard line with 2:39 left
, trailing by six? Of course I did! It’s a throw our franchise quarterback needs to make. But let’s face it, the offense took at least seven points off the board with the punt after Luke’s forced fumble (should’ve turned this into a field goal at least) and by Taylor Moton’s holding penalty turning a touchdown into a field goal. It’s stupid plays and sequences like these that are killing the Panthers, not just Cam’s overthrows. But Cam did look pretty terrible in the second half. He had zero touch. Almost every pass had the velocity of a bazooka. He keeps throwing 100 MPH fastballs when the better throw is to get some air under it and let his receivers run it down. The sequence that looked particularly bad was when the Panthers got possession with 13:05 left in the fourth quarter. On first and second downs he overthrew open receivers with inaccurate heaters that went over their heads. Then on third down he underthrew an open Curtis Samuel on a deep route and the pass was broken up. Samuel had two steps on T.J. Carrie and an accurate pass here would have been a long gain, if not a touchdown. It’s a broken record at this point. Defense can’t get stops on third-and-long. Chris Clark can’t protect Cam Newton’s blindside. The offense leaves points on the field. Cam is then forced to navigate various come-from-behind scenarios without being able to make any mistakes, which is when he starts pressing and overthrowing his targets. Panthers lose. What a wasted season. Plays to love season leaders6 - Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore3 - Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, James Bradberry2 - Chris Clark, Devin Funchess, Efe Obada, Kyle Love, Luke Kuechly, Ryan Kalil, Torrey Smith, 1 - Ben Jacobs, Colin Jones, David Mayo, Donte Jackson, Eric Reid, Graham Gano, Greg Van Roten, Ian Thomas, Jarius Wright, Julius Peppers
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, Kawann Short, Mario Addison, Michael Palardy, Norv Turner, Ron Rivera, Taylor Heinicke, Wes HortonPlays to hate season leaders6 - Cam Newton 5 - Eric Reid4 - James Bradberry, Mike Adams2 - Captain Munnerlyn, Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Devin Funchess, Dontari Poe, Donte Jackson, Eric Washington, Graham Gano, Norv Turner1 - Amini Silatolu, C.J. Anderson, Chris Clark, Colin Jones, Corn Elder, Ian Thomas, Luke Kuechly, Ron Rivera, Taylor Moton
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, Thomas Davis, Trai Turner The Carolina Panthers fell short against the Detroit Lions on Sunday. In a topic that’s sure to be talked about for the remainder of the week (if not longer), Ron Rivera made a dicey decision. After Cam Newton connected to D.J. Moore for an eight yard touchdown pass to cut the Lions’ lead 20-19 with a 1:07 left, Rivera called for a two-point conversion versus the extra point. Earlier in the game, kicker Graham Gano missed a short field goal and an extra point. On the two-point play, Newton overthrew a wide open Jarius Wright. Lions’ defense came up strong throughout the game while Panthers were unable to take home the win. Despite a shaky start, the Seattle Seahawks pulled away with a 27-24 comeback win over the Green Bay Packers to keep them in the NFC playoff race. Seahawks’ defense came through in the second half, limiting the Packers to just one scoring drive. Seattle has struggled against the run throughout the season, but managed to hold the Packers to an astonishing 48 rushing yards. They also managed to sack Aaron Rodgers a whopping five times. In a matchup that’s crucial for both teams to keep their playoff chances alive, here are the three keys for the Panthers offense to find success against the Seahawks defense: Play inch by inch: Prior to the Packers, Seattle’s defense struggled against the run. Running backs Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley pounded their defense. Seahawks have struggled with leaky yardage and missed tackles. Panthers need simple plays that turn into a game of inches. With questions looming around Newton’s left ankle after he was pulled from behind versus Detroit, it’s imperative for Carolina to step up in the run the game. Christian McCaffrey is an obvious weapon, but Moore needs to see just as many touches. Key in on pass rush: Quinton Jefferson was disruptive against the Packers. He created pressure in the pocket, opening up opportunities for the Seahawks’ edge rushers. Jefferson took away potential lanes for Rodgers to scramble into and made openings for Seattle’s leading pass rusher, Frank Clark, to sack him twice (Clark has ten sacks for the season). Offensive tackle Chris Clark will need help due to him consistently surrendering pressure. The edges have been an issue for keeping Newton in the pocket. Keep the foot on the gas: Seahawks continue to improve as they go. Chargers scored 19 points in the first half against Seattle, the Rams scored 17 and the Packers scored 21. Seahawks have proven they can turn things around in the second half, holding each the Chargers and Packers to a single second-half field goal. In the last five games, Seattle has allowed 64 points in the first half versus 38 in the second. The Panthers are 5-0 at home. In order to keep their home record undefeated, they’ll need to keep the momentum and continue to protect Cam.
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