Plays to Love, Plays to Hate (aka “P2L, P2H”) looks at the most significant plays in swinging momentum and impacting the eventual outcome of the game. There is always plenty to hate about NFL officiating, so we will only focus on the plays on the field, not the refs.
Three Two plays to love
The Situation: The Panthers had taken the opening possession down to the Pittsburgh 22 and faced 4th-and-1.
The Play: Ron Rivera could have taken the field goal to get three points on the opening drive, but instead he chose to be aggressive and went for it. Christian McCaffrey picked up two yards for the first down to extend the drive. On the very next play, CMC took a short pass 20-yards to the house for an early 7-0 Panthers lead.
2nd Quarter 7:35 – Panthers 7, Steelers 24. Panthers ball 3rd-and-4 at CAR 46
The Situation: The wheels fell off early and the Panthers found themselves down 24-7 midway through the second quarter. Facing 3rd-and-4 from near midfield, the Panthers desperately needed a first down.
The Play: Jarius Wright did what he has done all season – convert a big third down. Wright’s numbers aren’t flashy but he is the Panthers wide receiver I trust the most to make a clutch play to move the sticks. This drive ended with another CMC touchdown to trim the Steelers lead to 24-14, giving Panthers fans a least a glimmer of false hope.
Three plays to hate
1st Quarter 10:29 – Panthers 7, Steelers 0. Steelers ball 1st-and-10 at PIT 25
The Situation: After the Panthers opened the game with a touchdown, the Steelers offense took the field for their first play of the game.
The Play: James Bradberry got absolutely smoked by JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 75-yard touchdown on Pittsburgh’s first play from scrimmage. All of the momentum from Carolina’s opening drive score evaporated in an instant.
1st Quarter 10:13 – Panthers 7, Steelers 7. Panthers ball 1st-and-10 at CAR 12
The Situation: After Smith-Schuster’s score, Jermaine Carter was flagged for a hold on the kick return, forcing the Panthers to start their drive at the 12 yard line.
The Play: On Carolina’s first offensive play following Pittsburgh’s one-play score, Cam threw a back-breaker of a pick-six. In a poor play design by Norv Turner, T.J. Watt came completely untouched off the edge and was immediately in Cam Newton’s face after play action. Cam retreated to the end zone and instead of taking a sack for a safety he made a terrible decision to force a throw over the middle. The errant pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The Panthers 7-0 lead was turned into a 14-7 deficit in the matter of 18 seconds. Carolina never recovered.
3rd Quarter 1:23 – Panthers 14, Steelers 38. Steelers ball 3rd-and-8 at CAR 32
The Situation: The Steelers had a 24-point lead and were driving with the third quarter coming to a close. The game was already over at this point.
The Play: Ben Roethlisburger scrambled for a first down on 3rd-and-8 and went into a traditional quarterback slide, giving himself up to the defense. Eric Reid came in at full speed and dove shoulder first at Big Ben’s head. Reid’s shoulder made direct contact with Ben’s helmet, causing his head to snap back and hit the turf. The cheap shot started an on-field skirmish and resulted in Reid being ejected from the game. The Panthers gutless performance was bad enough, but watching Reid go headhunting in a blowout was flat out embarrassing. As Panthers fans we rightfully get livid when Cam is on the receiving end of these types of cheap shots and it would be hypocritical to not call out Eric Reid for this completely unnecessary dirty play.
Closing it out and summing it up
This loss was as brutal of a Panthers defeat as I can remember. Why do they always embarrass themselves so spectacularly on national TV?
The offensive line got completely exposed. Chris Clark channeled his inner Byron Bell in this one.
On defense, I’m starting to seriously wonder if Eric Washington is up for the job. The individual pieces are there are a good (not great) defense, but this unit is seriously struggling right now. I absolutely hated the decision early in the second quarter to RUSH JUST TWO LINEMEN on 3rd-and-2. Big Ben stood in the pocket like a statue as five Steelers linemen manhandled the two Panthers rushers. After what seemed like an eternity, Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 33-yard gain because it’s impossible to cover him for that long.
I also hated Rivera’s decision to keep playing Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, and other starters late into the fourth quarter. With the Panthers trailing 52-14 with less than six minutes left, Rivera chose to expose his franchise cornerstones to completely unnecessary injury risks. That was dumb.
But in the end, a loss is a loss. Yes, this was a humiliating and public defeat, but the Panthers are still 6-3 and will have a couple of extra days to prepare for the Detroit Lions in Week 11. That’s the only good news to be found.
Plays to love season leaders
3 – Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, James Bradberry
2 – Efe Obada, Kyle Love, Torrey Smith,
1 – Ben Jacobs, Colin Jones, David Mayo, Devin Funchess, Donte Jackson, Eric Reid, Graham Gano, Greg Olsen, Jarius Wright, Julius Peppers, Kawann Short, Mario Addison, Norv Turner, Ron Rivera, Taylor Heinicke, Wes Horton
Plays to hate season leaders
4 – Eric Reid, Mike Adams
3 – Cam Newton
2 – Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Dontari Poe, Eric Washington
1 – Amini Silatolu, C.J. Anderson, Captain Munnerlyn, Colin Jones, Devin Funchess, Donte Jackson, Ian Thomas, James Bradberry, Luke Kuechly, Norv Turner, Ron Rivera, Thomas Davis, Trai Turner
Which Play to hate had the biggest impact on the Panthers loss?
1st Q – Bradberry gets smoked on a 75-yard TD
1st Q – Cam’s ugly pick-six
3rd Q – Eric Reid’s cheap shot on Big Ben
605 votes total