Carolina Panthers

Panthers grades: By keeping it simple, Kyle Allen and Carolina bounced back vs. Titans

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Titans at Panthers

Expanded coverage of Carolina’s Week 9 victory over Tennessee

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The Panthers didn’t let their blowout loss last week at the San Francisco 49ers derail their season. Carolina looked back in form Sunday by making easy work of the Titans, 30-20.

Passing offense

B: It took 21 minutes, 53 seconds for Christian McCaffrey to be targeted for the first time in the passing game. On fourth-and-2 from the Titans’ 7-yard line, Kyle Allen ran a play-action pass where he faked the give to McCaffrey, who was slipping out to the right flat. Allen quickly hit his uncovered running back in the flat for the Panthers’ first touchdown of the game, making the score 10-0.

That completion was only one of 17 for Allen on Sunday (and accounted for only 7 of his 232 yards), but it was a return to what made him so good in his first four starts of the season: Keeping it simple. Prior to that touchdown, Allen had already thrown one interception Sunday and got away with two more passes into double coverage that should have been picked off. He was pressing — the reason even he said he struggled a week ago at San Francisco. Allen’s physical tools should rank 32nd among starting NFL quarterbacks, but he has a good head on his shoulders that can work wonders.

Rushing offense

A: McCaffrey was enjoying a quiet day with two touchdowns and 108 total yards. Then he did what he always does — breaks off a big run. When McCaffrey scootered for a 58-yard touchdown run up the middle early in the fourth quarter, the crowd at Bank of America broke into chants of “M-V-P!”

McCaffrey finished with 24 carries for 146 yards and two scores rushing.

Passing defense

C: Quarterbacks the Panthers have held to fewer than 200 passing yards this season: Jared Goff, Jameis Winston, Jimmy Garoppolo, Deshaun Watson. There’s no logical reason Ryan Tannehill shouldn’t be on that list, but he crossed the 200-yard mark in the fourth quarter with an 11-yard completion to Derrick Henry.

The longest pass of Tannehill’s 331-yard day went for 35 yards. Most of his damage through the air was done in repeated chunks of 11 to 20 yards that the Panthers struggled to defend. He threw two interceptions (Donte Jackson, Tre Boston) and was sacked four times.

Rushing defense

B-minus: Titans running back Derrick Henry had only two carries in the first half. Tennessee changed its game plan to open the third quarter, giving Henry the ball on its first five plays and seven of the first eight, including an 8-yard touchdown run. The one play of the drive that wasn’t a Henry run was a 25-yard Ryan Tannehill scramble out of a five-wide set.

The Titans wanted to run the ball more and could have gashed the Panthers defense by doing so, but eventually fell behind by so many points that they had no choice but to throw the football.

Special teams

B: Nothing like a fake punt to keep a game entertaining. Seldom-used safety (and apparently “emergency running back”) Colin Jones took a direct snap on fourth-and-4 from Carolina’s own 36 around the right side for 5 yards to extend the Panthers’ first drive of the second half.

Carolina scored a touchdown that drive, preventing the Titans from seizing back any momentum after having scored a TD the previous possession.

Joey Slye made 1 of 2 field-goal attempts (made from 35 yards, missed from 49) and 3 of 4 (blocked) point-after tries. Perhaps most reassuring, though, was that the Panthers didn’t put a single punt or kick return on the turf. Way to go, Greg Dortch!

Coaching

B: For every confusing decision offensive coordinator Norv Turner makes, he’ll follow it up with a brilliant play call. Third-and-14 from the Titans’ 37 with less than 2 minutes remaining in the first half, Carolina executed a beautiful wide receiver screen to D.J. Moore for 19 yards. Two plays later, Allen found Curtis Samuel for a 12-yard score.

The Panthers were penalized six times, compared to 11 for Tennessee.

A week after not making any adjustments — none that worked, anyway — Carolina responded to just about every Tennessee call (with the exception of stopping the mid-range passes). A scoreless first quarter turned into a two-possession victory for the Panthers.

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