The Miami Dolphins traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, to take on the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football and left on the wrong end of a 45-21 decision. Carolina (7-3) extended its winning streak to three games as it heads into a bye in Week 11, while Miami (4-5) lost its third straight. Both teams made headlines before the NFL trade deadline by packaging stars in deals; wideout Kelvin Benjamin was dealt by the Panthers, and the Fins moved running back Jay Ajayi. With those players now in Buffalo and Philadelphia, Christian McCaffrey and Devin Funchess came up big for the Panthers, scoring two touchdowns apiece.
What It Means
It all lined up so perfectly.
The Panthers had a great chance to go into the bye with a three-game win streak. All they had to do was beat a beatable team at home on Monday night. They could then come out of the bye with their Pro Bowl tight end against another beatable team.
What could go wrong?
Fortunately for the Panthers, not much on this night.
Carolina cruised past the Dolphins, whose offense lived up to its 31st-in-yards-per-game ranking. Miami did put together a couple of nice scoring drives and had a 66-yard rushing touchdown, but this never felt like much of a toss-up.
The more talented team, the Panthers racked up a franchise-record 548 yards and a season-high 45 points to win their seventh game – already more than they won in 2016. So now they’ll head into the bye at 7-3 with expectations to have Greg Olsen back for their Week 12 visit with the Jets.
The win also kept Carolina a half-game behind the Saints and a-game-and-a-half ahead of the Falcons in the NFC South.
—Wide receiver Curtis Samuel had his left ankle rolled up on while trying to make a touchdown catch in the third quarter. Samuel, who’s been hampered by a sore right ankle since the preseason, was immediately helped to the locker room and did not return.
—Cornerback Kevon Seymour was slow to get up after breaking up a pass intended for wide receiver Jarvis Landry in the second quarter. Seymour was replaced by Daryl Worley before eventually rotating back in.
—Center Tyler Larsen exited for a few minutes of the second half with a foot injury. Third-stringer Greg Van Roten played well on a couple scoring drives before Larsen re-entered for the final play of the third quarter.
—Good to see Jonathan Stewart running with confidence again. He finished with a season-high 110 yards, and amazingly, his 18-yard rush in the first half was the longest for a Panthers running back this season.
—Equally amazingly, Devin Funchess’ 28-yard score that started the third quarter was the first by a Panthers’ receiver at home in 2017.
—Christian McCaffrey still hasn’t broken off a huge play yardage-wise, but he made a couple of ¡olé moves in the first half that few players in the league could pull off. The rookie also had the first multi-score game of his short career, laid out some big blocks and passed Stewart for most receiving yards for a Panthers’ running back in a single season.
—All that offseason chatter about Cam Newton not running anymore sure did fill a lot of space and airtime. His 69-yard gain on a bootleg in the third quarter, the second-longest of his career (72, 2012), put him at 436 for the season. His total rushing yards last year? 359.
—Luke Kuechly’s interception was the 15th of his career, the most among front 7 players during that six-year span. It’s also five more than the next closest players, fellow Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis and Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David. Oh, and those 15 picks are now the fourth-most in Carolina history. Only defensive backs Chris Gamble (27), Eric Davis (25) and Mike Minter (17) have more.