Here’s betting that Greg VanRoten attempting to sling McCaffrey across the goal-line, swirling snow and frozen tundra overtones to the max, becomes a tee shirt that sells millions. ‘Almost-Great’ in a 24-16 loss kind of covers it, moral victories don’t move the possibility needle on getting into the playoffs.
Kyle Allen earned his spurs (28/43, 307 yds., TD/INT), slinging it as much as necessary, including that 18-yard throw to Olsen in the snowstorm. That counts for experience, especially knowing Cam won’t be back this year.
One pick and his fumble aside, Allen’s distribution is still what the Norv Turner offense is supposed to look like. Color commentator Troy Aikman said that was the focus 25 years ago when he was at the controls in Dallas, its still the standard for Allen. Yes, that’s the DJ Moore that is becoming a difference maker (9 catches/120 yds.) from anywhere on the field, and does anybody else frown when announcers in other games state, “He’s the best running back in the league right now,” and it’s not Cee Mack juking someone bad?
The naysayers will see a 5-4 record for the Panthers, Rivera will still go with playing them one at a time, even if he admits they got great effort from everyone. Yes, after missing an earlier two-point conversion, the Panthers needed to get that last yard from McCaffrey AND a two-pointer to even tie and go to overtime. He’s going to get more chances, so will the Panthers. There’s still room on the wagon for believers.
The offensive line continues to be interchangeable and effective, both in pass blocking and giving McCaffrey seams to work through. They’ve given up 20 sacks (seven against 49ers), but Allen doesn’t seem fazed by three against the Packers. He’s an NFL starting QB, he knows what a top-flight pass rush looks like, but we’ve seen him throw well with people all around him. He looks ready to come out of the “game managing” category.
Nobody is saying the Panthers offensive or defensive lines blinked at Green Bay’s power. Gerald McCoy busting through that last play of the first half with the Packers a yard from scoring at the end of a LONG drive, that was a character stand. Yes, some gashing up to that point, but zero points in the clutch, it wasn’t a mistake. That Panthers pushed it 82 and 88 yards on last two drives, that’s not just luck.
Okay, Troy Aikman kept reminding everyone that, except for the pass rush, the Panthers defense has been getting gashed by *everyone* this year.
Rodgers was 17/29 for 233 yards and no touchdowns. How many defensive coordinators would take that line against Green Bay? Despite his 7/118 yard game receiving, DeVonte Adams didn’t score either. When we keep seeing the sort of runs that make long drives possible, like Aaron Jones 13/93 and 3 TDS, and Adams seemingly going wherever he wanted to, that is some cause for Panther concern. The Falcons have some pass catchers this coming week, and Drew Brees, despite a sub-par return game, has some personnel in New Orleans to throw to after that.
There were an awful lot of single tackle stats from the front seven, even Luke Kuechly, to say anyone should think things are okay though. Alvin Kamara is waiting in the Superdome, getting him on the ground will be an important factor. Reid has been good about coming up to make tackles from safety, Ross Cockrell and Tre Boston are steady, Donte Jackson has make up speed, and he’s needed it more than he should in catching people.
This is what being a fan is about, right?
Even with the knowledge Cam’s season is over after being put on injured reserve, there is more than just a good attitude among the Panther faithful after this game. The team was 6-2 this time last year, and of course, there was that seven game skid after the Steelers debacle. While McCaffrey had a statistically great year, going from 11-5 to 7-9 tested everyone’s concern.
Without being a Homer in cheering for losses, the next two weeks will be division games against the Falcons and Saints. Matt Ryan isn’t usually the QB who beats you running around (last year, oh my!), so lets see how tough the Panthers pass rush is at home. Games in the Superdome with Brees are always tough, but half the division games are at the other guys place. Panthers lost to Saints three times last year, its time to do better.
For those watching the 1,000/1,000 stats on McCaffrey, its 165 carries for 881 yards and 10 TDs rushing. For all the checkdown passes he caught last year (107 overall), its possible that Allen finding receivers downfield – Olsen was 8/98 yards, Curtis Samuel 4/35 and a TD, Jarius Wright, 1/21 yards – are probably affecting his total of 48/396 yards, three touchdowns in 2019.
We all got to watch a game that was worth talking about at work today. Right now, take the loss – and very definitely the experience – and move on.