Some quick takes on Carolina’s 31-24 win against Green Bay Sunday, which moved the Panthers to 10-4 on the season but didn’t gain them any ground on the four teams ahead of them in the NFC playoff race. Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Orleans and the L.A. Rams all won.
▪ I addressed all of the allegations against Panthers owner Jerry Richardson in a column elsewhere, so this is a football-only space. And speaking of football, due to Seattle’s blowout loss Sunday, the Panthers can now clinch at least a wild-card playoff berth on Christmas Eve by beating Tampa Bay (4-9) at home.
Yes, it’s “win and you’re in” time. Another victory Sunday would make Carolina 11-4, and the worst the Panthers could finish would be sixth in the NFC (and that’s only if the Atlanta Falcons caught them).
Carolina needs New Orleans to lose again, though, to win the NFC South. The Saints are also 10-4 and hold the tiebreaker by virtue of beating the Panthers twice.
▪ Tight end Greg Olsen had a superb day Sunday, catching nine balls for 116 yards and throwing in two one-handed receptions along the way. Said his fellow tight end Ed Dickson, commenting on Olsen’s return from a broken foot that made him miss most of the regular season: “Man, if I could have broken out in tears without them thinking I was soft, I would have.”
▪ Kudos to Julius Peppers, who obviously did not drive Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the ground as hard as he could have on a sack. The two former teammates had a nice moment right after that, patting each other in an obvious show of mutual respect.
▪ Cam Newton was spectacular Sunday, throwing for four touchdowns. His quarterback rating of 128.0 far surpassed Aaron Rodgers’ 71.5. Rodgers’ rating dropped considerably due to the three interceptions he threw.
▪ Christian McCaffrey had his highest total yardage so far this season (136) and had nine touches in Carolina’s first drive alone. But the rookie also fumbled away an onside kick in the last three minutes to give Green Bay a chance to tie the game.
“I dropped it,” McCaffrey said of the kick. “It was a tough play, and I’ve got to make a play when it counts.”
▪ Linebacker Thomas Davis is going to get fined for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams, and rightly so. You just can’t do that, and Davis should know better.
No. He may get taught a very hard lesson this week, too. I think it’s quite likely the NFL will suspend Davis for a game for that hit – very similar hits have already drawn one-game suspensions this season.
▪ The explanation given by referee Craig Wrolstad after the game about why Damiere Byrd’s disputed catch in the end zone was called a TD was hilarious. “Just a small part of his rear end needs to hit inbounds for it to be considered inbounds” was part of the actual transcript.
Or as Newton said of Byrd: “I guess it pays to have little cheeks.”
▪ Also hilarious: Newton’s imitation of Olsen being so adamant that head coach Ron Rivera shouldn’t challenge the Byrd catch, leaving it as an incompletion. Olsen missed the call, of course, much to Newton’s delight.
▪ It’s impressive that Newton threw four TD passes Sunday and not a single one was to his No. 1 wide receiver, Devin Funchess.
▪ Carolina has now won two straight games by scores of 31-24. And here’s a shoutout to Carolina’s secondary, which came up with all four of the Packers’ turnovers.