CHARLOTTE – It took rookie edge rusher Brian Burns just five NFL games to score his first touchdown.
And he has veteran edge rusher Mario Addison to thank for it.
With the Panthers up 14-7, Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew had the Jaguars on the move, down to the Panthers 34-yard line. Addison was lined up inside across from his old teammate, imposing left guard Andrew Norwell.
“I knew Norwell liked to be aggressive, but this time he was passive,” Addison said. “So, I stabbed him and grabbed his hands and ran back to the quarterback as hard as I could before he could recover.”
That’s one way to put it. Addison completely manhandled Norwell, knocking the 325-pound lineman seven yards into the backfield and straight into Minshew. The force of Norwell colliding with his quarterback knocked the ball out.
That’s where Burns came in, literally.
“I think that was one of my first couple of plays in,” Burns said. “I was just thinking go fast, play fast.”
And that’s exactly what Burns did, bursting off the line of scrimmage and dodging the right tackle to end up in the right place at the right time. One perfect bounce later the ball was in Burns’ hands and he was off to the races.
“He dropped to cut block me, I played the cut,” Burns said. “Mario did a great job pushing his guy to the quarterback to cause a fumble. See ball, get ball, and take it to the crib.”
Burns said after he picked up the loose ball, there was only one thing on his mind.
“Don’t get caught.”
With someone hot on his tail trying to track him down, Burns sprinted all the way to the end zone.
“I took off because I thought someone was behind me, but it was Bruce (Irvin),” Burns said.
It took Irvin all 56 yards to catch up to Burns, and before the rookie defensive end could strike his signature Spider-Man pose in celebration, Irvin tackled him to the ground in celebration.
"He was just excited," Burns said, forgiving his teammate for cramping his style. "He probably hit me because he was the next man to get it! I beat him to it."
But Burns wasn’t done yet. Late in the fourth quarter, the rookie forced a fumble of his own, making him just the third rookie since 2000 to record a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery for a touchdown all in the same game.
The Panthers were clinging to a 34-27 lead with 2:33 left in the game. The Jags faced second-and-10 from the Carolina 39-yard line when Minshew took a snap from the shotgun.
Burns, lined up against left tackle Cam Robinson, exploded off the line, as he's known to do. But Robinson did a good job halting his rush.
"I didn’t win my initial move, but I kept rushing. He was holding the ball and it gave me an opportunity," Burns said.
Minshew tried to step up in the pocket, but defensive tackle Dontari Poe forced him to reverse course. The quarterback stumbled just a bit, which gave the speedy Burns the chance to strike. Burns' left hand made direct contact with the ball as he tackled Minshew, and Marquis Haynes was there for the recovery.
“Burns is really growing into his position,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “He is going to grow into something special. He has a way to go, but he is going to continue to contribute for us.”