The Carolina Panthers defeated the New York Jets in East Rutherford on Sunday afternoon 35-17. This was the Panthers’ fourth straight win as they are keeping pace with the NFC South Division leader New Orleans Saints, who are currently losing to the Los Angeles Rams as I am writing this.
It wasn’t pretty or particularly inspiring – much like the steel grey skies over MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. But there are no style points in the NFL, particularly in November and December games when playoff lives are on the line.
Carolina improved to 8-3 and won on a day when former Panthers QB Josh McCown outplayed current Panthers QB Cam Newton, who completed only 11 of 28 passes for 168 yards and zero touchdowns. He did rush for a score along with running back Jonathan Stewart. Rookie Christian McCaffrey led the team in rushing with 62 yards on seven carries. Wide receiver Devin Funchess led the team with 108 receiving yards on seven catches. Greg Olsen returned to action and caught a ten-yard pass but then reinjured himself. His time out is still up in the air. The Panthers’ offense was sluggish unless Funchess was involved in the play.
But the Panthers received big boosts from their defense and special teams (see below) to stay in good shape in the NFC playoff race heading into next week’s showdown with the Saints in New Orleans. Teams that score defensive and/or special teams touchdowns generally seem to end up winning. Well, the Panthers got one of each Sunday – a 34-yard fumble return by LB Luke Kuechly and a 60-yard punt return by Kaelin Clay. Kuechly’s runback was the first defensive touchdown for the Panthers in more than a year, while Clay’s score was the first punt return for a TD in three years (Philly Brown vs. Chicago in 2014).
Josh McCown had a decent game against one of the NFL’s best defenses. He finished with 307 passing yards on 19 of 36 passes and three touchdowns. Robby Anderson had two of those touchdowns along with 146 yards on six catches. Kearse had 105 yards and a touchdown, and is someone who had plagued the Panthers in the past during his time in Seattle.
Carolina travels to New Orleans next Sunday for a matchup against the Saints which could decide the fate of the NFC South.
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