CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - Confidence is building in Carolina. The swagger is there and the entire league is taking note because the Panthers just took down the NFL’s number one defense. These are the four biggest takeaways from the Panthers 36-21 win over the Ravens.
GO DJ, THAT’S MY DJ
If you think Christian McCaffrey is the only Swiss army knife the Panthers have, you’re wrong. DJ Moore is talented. That we knew. The way Carolina is utilizing him had some questioning if he was the right choice in this past year’s draft.
Norv Turner’s plan for DJ came into fruition Sunday. Not only did DJ become Cam’s main target Sunday, but he also helped the run game. The pitch play has now become Moore’s marquee play.
He had two rushes for 39 yards including one that set up a touchdown. Add that with 90 yards receiving and five catches, and most would say that’s a pretty nice day.
DJ had a learning game two weeks ago in Washington, but has responded nicely. Ron Rivera has said multiple times he wants to give DJ more work every chance he gets.
If the Panthers find a way to utilize Moore and Curtis Samuel on the field at the same time, we could be looking at a whole new game plan for Cam and company.
Ron Rivera always has those cool t-shirts made every week. I think he could make one for the offensive line using the old Blockbuster Video logo. All these guys do is give Cam Newton the time he needs to be one of the NFL’s most dynamic playmakers.
The Ravens defense was ranked number one in the NFL coming into Sunday. That’s why this stat was so shocking. Newton was never sacked. He was hurried multiple times, but protection from Ryan Kalil, Greg Van Roten, Chris Clark, Taylor Moten and Trai Turner was worthy of its own feature film.
While we know Cam has the moves like Jagger, Kalil had a stand out game. He made multiple blocks where he held up two Raven defenders so his quarterback could get the ball downfield.
They had a decent supporting cast as well. CJ Anderson only gets a few rushes a game as the change-up back, but when he’s in the game and not getting the ball, he’s helping number one stay on his feet by blocking. Chris Manhertz and Greg Olsen should get a credit as well.
“TURNOVER” THE PAGE
If you watch the FOX 46 Panthers Pre-Game show every Sunday, then you know what former Panthers lineman Frank Garcia preaches: “Play with a sense of urgency.” That’s exactly what Carolina did, especially after turnovers.
Getting the ball back from Baltimore three times, the Panthers took home points on all three possessions. For the season, the Panthers are a plus six in turnover differential. That’s tied for fifth in the NFL.
Granted, the Joe Flacco factor played a role in coughing up the ball. Don’t let that deter you from the fact that Carolina is not giving up on plays.
Mike Adams has by far been the best safety to don a Panthers uniform this season. He picked off Flacco after everyone else gave up on the play. His hustle set up points.
Captain Munnerlyn played with a bad hamstring and still managed to intercept an underthrown ball. His hustle set up points. See a pattern here? Maybe Thieves Avenue should change its name to Hustle Avenue.
RIVERA’S CIRCLE OF TRUST
One of the most interesting things that came from the post-game press conference was the decision making of Ron Rivera. Backup QB Taylor Heinicke was inserted into the game with just six seconds left.
With everyone thinking a hail marry pass was going into the end zone, the man Cam calls “Heineken” threw a short pass to Greg Olsen to get kicker Graham Gano in range for a half ending 54-yard field goal.
Heinicke got put into the game because Cam did not want to strain his arm throwing the bomb. Newton has been nursing a sore shoulder as of late and said Heinicke gave the Panthers the best chance at points.
It was later revealed that the pass was actually never intended to go to Olsen. He heard Greg yelling last second as he was running toward the Ravens sideline. Greg makes the catch, gets out of bounds to stop the clock, and sets up another Gano kick.
Before any of that happened, special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn said he talked Rivera out of letting Gano for another 60-plus yard attempt. Crosswinds took over the south end of the stadium causing Blackburn to tell Rivera not to go for the kick. Rivera listened and still came away with points. That’s how much trust the head ball coach has in his staff, and it helped put the game away early.