The Carolina Panthers needed a win against the Buffalo Bills to keep their (mostly mathematical) playoff hopes alive. Instead, they left Orchard Park with a 31-14 loss in the latest setback of what was once a promising season. After starting 3-0, Carolina has lost nine of the last 11 games to fall to 5-9 on the year.
Our players to watch were certainly involved in the game, and although the offensive players were mostly kept in check, the defensive ones played well. Here’s how our opponents to watch fared last week.
QB Cam Newton
Once an elite playmaker, Newton is a shell of his former self, as he just can’t make NFL throws consistently anymore. He had a wide open D.J. Moore at one point, and he underthrew him by five yards and put it on the wrong shoulder. He threw some passes within ten yards of the line of scrimmage that quacked all the way to their destination. Hell, he fired a bullet on his last pass of the game to a wide-open A.J. Klein, which sounds great except that Klein is a linebacker. The pass was so bad that it almost looked like Newton did it on purpose just to end the misery. He completed 18-of-38 passes for 156 yards, one touchdown, and that interception. As bad as he was passing, though, he still is dangerous as a runner. Newton totaled 71 rushing yards on 15 carries, adding a touchdown rushing in his fifth straight game.
RB Chuba Hubbard
So much for Hubbard serving as the “feature back.” Hubbard was out-snapped by teammate Ameer Abdullah, who played 53 percent of the time as compared to 47 percent for Hubbard. Chuba carried it just eight times, though he did gain 40 yards on those carries. He caught one pass for one yard, and given the fact that Carolina trailed and had to throw for much of the game, that explains why Abdullah played more snaps. The better receiving back is the former Detroit Lions player, and he caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown on the day. Hubbard, however, was not much of a factor.
WR D.J. Moore
Aside from that miss I mentioned above, Moore didn’t have many chances for big plays, but he was the most popular target for Carolina on the day. That’s with good reason, too, as Moore is a fantastic receiver. He was targeted a game-high 11 times, and he caught six passes for 48 yards. With better quarterback play, he could have easily doubled that total. He’s not a free agent until 2023, so I’ll wait until March of that year to start lobbying general manager Brandon Beane to activate the Carolina-to-Buffalo pipeline to bring Moore up north.
DE Brian Burns
His stat line doesn’t necessarily show it, but Burns was a problem on Sunday. He’s a great speed rusher and, with Buffalo playing two tackles in spots where they don’t normally play this year, Burns was able to pressure Josh Allen often. He only came up with two tackles, but he did have a sack on the afternoon, too. Teammate Yetur Gross-Matos, a popular name among Bills’ mock drafters in the 2020 NFL Draft, notched 2.5 sacks on the afternoon.
LB Haasan Reddick
The third of Carolina’s three stud pass rushers also notched half a sack on the day, and he managed four tackles, as well. While that stat line, again, isn’t exceptional, it doesn’t show how often he was able to hurry Allen and disrupt his timing. It also doesn’t show the struggle that Buffalo’s offensive line had in blocking him. Reddick is a smaller speed rusher, and that’s part of why Spencer Brown struggled so badly on the afternoon. Brown was flagged five times, and four of the penalties counted. Burns, Gross-Matos, and Reddick contributed to those penalties thanks to their athleticism.