The Panthers offensive stars put together five consecutive touchdown drives with conspicuous and dazzling plays from *everywhere*, so JOY! is the over-arching philosophy prevalent around town on a drippy Monday in Charlotte. If you didn’t jump out of your chair yelling at McCaffrey’s self-described “so I just went up…” leap over a Buccaneer defender-victim, too bad.
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A half-dozen *very* good and well-executed plays from ‘quarterback whisperer’ Norv Turner’s offense were fully displayed, with 1) C-MC’s video game hop over Carlton Davis III a serious contender to 2) Curtis Samuel’s double reverse,103-yard route to the endzone. Leaving DJ Moore’s 32-yard play as third best run of the day, well, it was a day with glory for many offensively. Cam Newton‘s 19/25, 247 yards/2 TDs passing, plus a walk-in TD, left color commentator Ronde Barber– who played his entire 16-year NFL career as a Buccaneer cornerback- beyond impressed by Newton’s ball handling. At least twice *everybody* thought Cam had left it with the guy being tackled.
Save the MVP stuff for right now, but at 67.3% on the year he’s killing it, almost eight points better than his MVP stats in Super Bowl year (2015). C-MC has already surpassed his rushing total from last year (502-435), and offense is a full seven points/game better overall.
(If you haven’t been satisfied watching the highlights yet, these clips will clearly raise expectations in set-up to Steelers game) Fans KNOW what both offense and defensive stars doing their jobs looks like, and for those who have agonized about Moore and Samuel getting more reps, they’re getting used. Anyone worried about Tampa Bay getting to within seven appreciated McCaffrey’s burst before Samuel caught his TD for 42-28 final margin. As noted- and perhaps feared- its a fact that whats done to others (ie.- comebacks) can be done to you. Offensive production needs to continue as Panthers become road warriors four of next five games.
O-line pride and production: 32 rushes for 179 yards, five straight touchdown drives. Once they brought in Chris Clark at left tackle, this unit put to rest “It’ll be a question until it isn’t,” and last three wins are the proof. Put stars next to every one of them, and wasn’t it a thing of beauty to see four black-clad escorts (yes, one was Newton) out front on that double-reverse?
McCaffrey had his first two touchdown day, an optimal C-MC blend of 17 carries/79 yds, 2 TDs rushing, plus 5 catches for 78 yards, especially that sideline, tip-toeing 35-yarder, and really, this game featured crowd pleasing contributions till the end. Olsen was repeatedly open (6/76, TD), his tap to self-score (TDs in all three games since his return) should put a warning flag out about an offense capable of scoring 35 first half points.
And the defense! especially Bradberry on Mike Evans, wherever Tampa Bay’s #1 receiver went, to the tune of one catch for 16 yards. They went to Evans repeatedly, Bradberry stoned him. Donte Jackson’s 4th INT and pressing the Bucs #2 receiver DeSean Jackson, and Eric Reid chipping in an early pick and terrific 39-yard return and relentless run support earned him a game ball. Consistent pressure up front- heck yes! for Addison’s three-sack day- kept the Buccaneers pass-happy fireworks in check, and for the second game in a row, it was every bit the complete effort Panther-dom has been expecting.
Tampa Bay’s Fitz-NoMagik had as ordinary as four TDs can be day: 24/40, 243 yds. plus two INTs, and NOW it’s okay for fans to seriously think about the Steelers. On a short week because its a prime time Thursday Night game, less time to sweat about never having won there.