The “Litter Box.” What I like to call any game between the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Two teams with cats as mascots.
Yesterday’s edition of the Litter Box was about as exciting as an NFL game could get, and one that had very similar storylines. Both the Panthers and the Jaguars were coming into the game at 2-2. Both teams had their backup quarterbacks starting. Both of those backups, Kyle Allen and Gardner Minshew, had won their past two starts (Allen has won his past three). Both teams have two of the NFL’s top running backs this season in terms of production.
Both of those running backs, Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette, had big days yesterday, each eclipsing 100 rushing yards. One of those running backs, however, put on a receiving clinic, and ultimately ended up winning the battle en route to leading his team to victory. That running back would be none other than the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey, who totaled 237 yards and three touchdowns from scrimmage.
How was McCaffrey able to have yet another monster week? For one, we already know that he is one of the best running backs in the NFL, if not one of the best overall players (he is only two years removed from Stanford University), so his production comes as no surprise. But yesterday seemed a little special.
I was actually in attendance at this game as part of my Guest Relations job, and I saw exactly why McCaffrey had a huge day. Although the Jaguars’ defense had three sacks on the day, the Panthers’ offensive line was able to open up lanes all day long. For a unit that had been struggling to keep both Newton (when he was healthy) and Allen protected, I would say they did a pretty good job. Whether it was running between or behind the guards and tackles or the center and guards, McCaffrey was able to find blocks and open lanes like no one other. Once he got through the lane, he turned on the jets (no, not one of New York’s football teams), and the Jags’ defenders struggled to stop him.
McCaffrey’s touchdowns were pretty impressive, too. His first one made SportsCenter Top 10, as on the Jags’ five-yard line, McCaffrey ran to the outside and did a somersault into the end zone over Jacksonville cornerback Tre Herndon. 6-0 Panthers.
McCaffrey’s second touchdown was his first receiving touchdown of the day, as on the Jags’ 18-yard line, he faked out Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack, caught a pass from Kyle Allen, and outran Jack to the end zone. 13-7 Panthers.
The third and final touchdown for McCaffrey on the day was arguably his most impressive. The Panthers were deep in their own territory, on their own 16-yard line to be exact. Allen handed off the ball to McCaffrey, who ran right through his interior lineman and took off. Jaguars safety Jarrod Wilson tried to catch up with McCaffrey, but McCaffrey was too far gone. CMC crossed the end zone line, and the Panthers were up 26-17.
The rushing attack did not stop there, however, as Reggie Bonnafon padded the lead with a 59-yard run of his own to put the Panthers up 34-27. That would be all the scoring, and the Panthers would move to above-.500 for the first time this season.