Breaking Down Carolina Panthers’ Win Over Titans

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 03: Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers walks off the field after running for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 03, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 03: Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers walks off the field after running for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 03, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

The Panthers take care of business against the visiting Titans on the strength of another incredible performance by Christian McCaffrey and Kyle Allen’s rebound performance.

With the memory of last week’s demolition at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers, the Carolina Panthers enjoyed a much-needed victory in Week 8, defeating the Tennessee Titans 30-20 Sunday in Charlotte. The win keeps the Panthers (5-3) in the thick of the playoff picture, just two games off the division pace set by the idle-New Orleans Saints.

Though far from perfect, the Panthers will take a victory any way they can get it right now. With uncertainty looming over the future of star quarterback Cam Newton following a poor prognosis on his lingering foot injury, the team continues to lean heavily on upstart backup Kyle Allen and the herculean effort of halfback Christian McCaffrey. Allen’s consistency, coupled with yet another monster performance from the third-year back at out Stanford provided enough of a spark to propel the Panthers to their fifth win on the year.

Their strong offensive showing against a decent Titans defense will help bolster the confidence of a team that took a beating the week prior. After only putting up 13 points on the road in Santa Clara the week prior, the Panthers exploded for four touchdowns on the day – two on the ground, and two through the air. Of special note was Carolina’s ability to retain offensive momentum throughout the game, stemming Tennessee’s momentum during their attempted comeback.

Victories are victories in the NFL; a premium is placed on winning, and the Panthers will gladly pad their win column despite flaws in their overall performance. With Allen looking more like the starter who won four straight in Week 9, Panthers fans can embrace the second half of the 2019 season with a modicum of optimism that the team can still make noise in January. With two games remaining against the Atlanta Falcons and a turn against the Washington Redskins interspersed among potential matchups with playoff contenders, the Panthers are positioned to make a real run at playing meaningful football in January.

A Return to Form

The big winner for Carolina was Allen; in need of a bounce-back performance after his worst-career start against San Francisco in Week 8, Allen returned to form with a consistent performance throughout the game Sunday. He finished off his ledger with 17-of-32 passing for two touchdowns and 232 yards. His lone interception on the day came early off an awkward tipped pass. The victory over the Titans gives Allen his sixth career victory, and fifth in the 2019 campaign.

Perhaps the most surprising improvement in Allen’s game is his ball security. After suffering through a slew of fumbles early on in the season, the second-year quarterback has become much more comfortable scrambling to extend plays. Beyond the early interception, Allen’s decision-making marked a noticeable improvement from his dreadful performance in San Francisco. His ability to make plays outside of the pocket proved instrumental in keeping Carolina’s offense moving down the field.

Thieves Avenue Strike Back

After a dreadful performance against the 49ers in Week 8, the Carolina defense turned in a much stronger performance against the Titans. Donte Jackson and Tre Boston added two interceptions of Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill to accompany a forced fumble by Panthers safety Eric Reid. The Titans were held scoreless in the first half by the Carolina defense, with a timely sack in the closing seconds of the second quarter costing the Titans just enough yards to miss a critical field goal heading into halftime.

The Panthers continued to pressure Tannehill into the second half, but coach Ron Rivera’s defense became more porous as well, giving up a touchdown to Derrick Henry on Tennessee’s opening possession. The acquisition of two second-half touchdowns by the Carolina offense obscured Tennessee’s bid for a late-game comeback, but the Panthers are sure to look towards addressing continued problems defending the run. The team allowed another 100+ yard day to the opposition, a dangerous trend with both games against Alvin Kamara and the New Orleans Saints looming on the schedule.

‘CMVPC’ Watch

The MVP case for McCaffery continues to shine through the first nine weeks of the season, highlighted by a 58-yard touchdown scamper in Sunday’s victory. With 166 total scrimmage yards and three more touchdowns, McCaffery continues to be the backbone of the Panthers offense. He is among the league leaders in carries, rushing yards, total yards, and touchdowns. McCaffrey did leave the game after scoring his second rushing touchdown midway through the 4th quarter after landing awkwardly in the end zone. He was evaluated in the medical tent on the sideline but remained with the team for the remainder of the game.

Key Moment of the Game

A shocking fake punt early in the third quarter deep in their own territory helped set the table for a Panthers touchdown. After yielding a touchdown on their opening possession of the half, the Panthers seemed to be poised to give up their first-half momentum. Instead, Ron Rivera’s decision to roll the dice and embrace his famed ‘Riverboat’ persona helped keep the Carolina offense moving, helping contribute to the team’s eventual victory.

Looking Ahead to Week 10

There is no rest for the weary: Carolina faces one of its toughest challenges of the year when it heads to Lambeau to take on Aaron Rodgers and the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers on FOX. Green Bay is fighting to stay ahead of the Minnesota Vikings in their division and will host Carolina following a road game in Los Angeles against the Chargers in Week 9.