The Panthers broke their dubious first-drive streak – they’d turned it over on every opening drive thus far this season – with an eight-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that had a little bit of everything. Kyle Allen completed every pass he threw, to four different wide receivers no less, and began the game by tossing the ball to Curtis Samuel on a reverse for Samuel’s third carry of the season which went for 16 yards and a quick first down – Samuel would account for 22 yards and Christian McCaffrey would account for 21 of his own on the first drive, the final five of which added to the third-year back’s already impressive highlight reel as he was upended by corner Tre Herndon and LB Quincy Williams and did a full flip, landing on his back in the end zone and spreading his arms wide.
We can’t stop watching this 👀 pic.twitter.com/ab0UgoseS4
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 6, 2019
Allen, who had fumbled the ball five times in his first two starts, had a fumble – albeit one that he recovered himself – wiped away via penalty and the Panthers moved the ball quickly and efficiently down the field to fire an opening salvo, which the Jags would quickly match on their opening drive.
Gardner Minshew needed only four plays, three throws and less than two minutes to fire back and tie the game as the rookie quarterback hit 2018 second-round pick DJ Chark with a pretty pass over the middle that just cleared the diving fingertips of Ross Cockrell for the score to tie the game at seven less than halfway through the first quarter. The quick drives for the Jaguars would work against them as the Panthers dominated the time of possession in the first quarter, 10:12 to 4:48, even though the Jags actually outgained the Panthers in terms of yardage.
After a fumbled exchange between Minshew and h-back Seth DeValve gave the Panthers great opening field position at the Jags’ 24-yard line, they capitalized quickly three plays later with a strike over the middle to McCaffrey, who did the rest as he escaped the grasp of Myles Jack and scampered for the 18-yard touchdown reception. It was the fifth game of McCaffrey’s career with a touchdown both through the air and on the ground; McCaffrey would finish the first half with 60 total yards.
He wouldn’t be done as he became only the fourth player in the Super Bowl era to have five games with one rushing and one receiving touchdown in his first three seasons. Eric Reid, who logged his second fumble recovery of the past two weeks, finished the game with ten tackles after being questionable for the game with an ankle injury.
Burns-ing Down The House
While Brian Burns will get credit for the 56 yard scoop-and-score for the first touchdown of the first-round pick’s young career, it was the incredible bull rush of Mario Addison – against former All-Pro Panthers guard Andrew Norwell – that caused Gardner Minshew to lose the ball and once Burns had it in his hands, nobody was going to catch him as he dashed the other way for the score. Burns, who would leave temporarily after re-injuring his right wrist and return, now has 3.5 sacks on the season and he would add a forced fumble later in the game.
Addison, who simply stood behind the play and flexed his muscle while watching the crowd run down the field, now has 6.5 sacks in the first five games of the season – including six in the past three games.
Those were the only points the Panthers would score in the second quarter as the Jaguars defense began to show it’s strength, locking down the Panthers – the Panthers had a 52-yard completion to DJ Moore, but only 45 total yards in the second quarter – the Jaguars sacked Kyle Allen three times, forced a fumble and blocked a field goal all in the span of four minutes of game time.
The blocked 56-yard field goal – the first miss for Joey Slye after ten consecutive makes – set up the Jags just shy of the 50-yard line and they only needed 37 yards to kick a field goal and cut the halftime deficit to 21-17 in favor of the Panthers.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 6, 2019
Two weeks ago in Arizona, Christian McCaffrey set the Panthers’ franchise record for the longest touchdown run with a 76-yarder directly up the middle – this week, he added eight more yards and corralled the record for the longest run – no modifiers needed – as he bolted 84 yards for his third score of the game and the Panthers went up by two scores for a fleeting moment in the third quarter.
The Panthers had big plays – this was an obvious example – but struggled to maintain drives. They were only 4-of-12 on third down and Allen would finish 17-of-29 for 171 yards. After throwing for four touchdowns in his 2019 debut, he has thrown for only one in the three games since – but that doesn’t matter as he became the first undrafted free agent quarterback since Kurt Warner to win his first four career starts.
But a quarterback’s best friend is an elite running back – McCaffrey finished with 237 total yards, the second time this season he has gone over 200 yards from scrimmage as he tied his career high.
After scoring the first two touchdowns of the day for the Jags offense, DJ Chark almost had a third as he pulled in a pass along the right sidelines near the goalline and extended it towards the end zone. James Bradberry was able to dislodge the ball from Chark’s hands as he appeared to cross the plane and the pass was originally called incomplete – but a challenge by Jaguars coach Doug Marrone overturned the play that looked as if it could have gone multiple ways – a touchdown for Chark, a touchback with the ball going out of the end zone out of bounds or the way that it was ultimately called – a completed pass at the one-yard line.
Leonard Fournette, who finished the game with 108 yards on the ground after being bottled up for most of the first three quarters – his body blows eventually wore down the defense before he exploded for a 48-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
Chark, who had three touchdowns in the first four weeks of the season, had eight catches for 164 yards and two scores on the day.
Clinging to a four-point lead, the Panthers drove 87 yards to the Jaguars five-yard line but a third-and-1 playcall – an aborted halfback pass that saw McCaffrey throw the ball into the ground when the Jaguars were ready for it – and the ensuing stuff on fourth down gave the Jaguars the ball back down by four points. The Panthers short-yardage playcalling in the red zone has left some wanting – the fourth-down call that cost them the game against Tampa Bay in their last home outing was a fake reverse call that came up a yard short.
The Jaguars would take the ball back and use 67 yards on the ground – including 59 from Fournette – to get into field goal range where they would cut the lead to one.
Reggie’s House Call
With McCaffrey off the field with cramps, backup running back Reggie Bonnafon – the undrafted free agent who spent last season on the practice squad and who had only two carries in mop-up duty this season – took advantage of a hole in the defense and scampered 59 yards for the first score of his career as the Panthers would eventually rush for a total of 285 yards.
— NFL (@NFL) October 6, 2019
On the ensuing possession, after Joey Slye had missed the extra point – one of three missed kicks for September’s NFC Special Teams Player of the Week – Brian Burns was able to strip-sack Gardner Minshew and the Panthers tried to bleed out the clock for the win, but ultimately punted the ball back to the Jaguars, whose three chances at a Hail Mary thanks to consecutive penalties fell short.