CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - We hear the term “team effort” a lot in sports. Many use it as filler for until they figure out what they really want to say. This isn’t one of those moments. The Carolina Panthers put together a full team effort against the Cincinnati Bengals. They also left us with some things to chew on going into the bye week. Here are the four biggest takeaways from Sunday’s 31-21 victory.
RUN CMC BREAKS OUT, CREDIT THE LINE
It was the best game of his career on the ground. Christian McCaffrey gets 184 rushing yards but he couldn’t do it alone. After the injuries, bickering and shuffling of players, things finally fell into place for the offensive line.
McCaffrey broke off rushes multiple times that saw him break away for large chunks of yardage. What’s more impressive is that they were all from running on the inside. Run CMC has been largely classified as a pass runner. Taking in short check down throws and getting his yards that way. Not on Sunday.
McCaffrey moved pushed through defense, found their gaps and was patient in relying on his blockers. Speaking of, we can't go without crediting the likes of Ryan Kalil, Tyler Larsen and Ian Thomas-- Christian’s big game would have never happened without those three.
While Kalil is established in what he does, Larsen hasn’t seen any love for the games he’s been putting on. Not just getting McCaffrey room, but also protecting Cam. Ian Thomas is growing every game as well. He had a few pancake blocks that allowed CMC to bust loose as well. If McCaffrey can keep up the pace as a runner is up in the air, but if his “makeshift” offensive line plays like they did against the Bengals, the trend is upwards.
LONDON CALLING: EFE OBADA HAS ARRIVED
First and foremost, no one on this Carolina Panther team has worked harder than defensive end Efe Obada
He was part of the NFL’s international placement program. With injuries on defense, Obada got his first taste of playing in the NFL. Obada got his hands on Andy Dalton three times. Once forcing a fumble and once for a major sack in Cinnci’s zone.
His marquee play came when James Bradberry tipped a pass back and the big man inched back to make an interception.
According to our friends from the Roaring Riot who were in London, his entire hometown erupted in joy. You would think he’ll get more opportunities now that he has a game ball in his locker, but Ron Rivera was bullish on that front in post-game interviews. I’d like to see it. Obada is a guy who’s the first one in and last one out of the locker room. Question is, who sits to give Efe more time?
TROUBLE AT SAFETY, RED ZONE DEFENSE
One of the biggest question marks going into this season was the Panthers secondary. While it seems that the cornerback position is locked down, it’s who plays at safety that has people worried. Colin Jones and rookie Rashaan Gaulden handled the duties Sunday with Da’Norris Searcy hurt.
It wasn’t pretty.
Jones was running a lot to help out with busted coverage and even seemed out of place on a number of passes thrown by Dalton.
Ron Rivera put Gaulden in for a majority of the snaps after the half and seemed to fair better against a pass heavy offense, but not by much. The Panthers need to find a way to get the safety position going before opposing offenses make the vertical threat known.
Here’s what is more concerning: The Panthers red zone defense. It was a delight to watch them in the pre-season, now it’s downright scary. Seven times this season Carolina has allowed an offense to get into the red zone. All seven times has resulted in a touchdown.
HOT TAKE: CAM NEWTON IS HAVING AN MVP SEASON
If you’ve read my past tweets and articles, you know I hold Cam Newton very accountable for this team’s success. He does too, which is why if you’ve watched how the Panthers go this season, he’s the team MVP.
Don’t let his low yardage total from Sunday fool you. He’s a big reason why they were on the board. Four touchdowns help big time obviously, but pulling a better effort out of your teammates is what lets you lead by example. The Panthers have not had a vertical threat downfield this season. Cam came out firing to Torrey Smith and Devin Funchess trying to correct that. When the defense focused on McCaffrey, he took his own legs into action.
If Cam Newton comes out of this line-up there are major problems. Argue with me all you want, but right now Cam Newton is a top five MVP candidate in the league.
Got anything to argue with me with? Tweet me @TheEpicAudi and @Fox46News. Be sure to catch all of our hot takes on-air, every Thursday & Sunday on our pre-game shows.