CHARLOTTE – When offensive coordinator Norv Turner communicated the play call, he knew it had a real chance to result in a 52-yard touchdown.
"It's somewhere deep in one of Norv's playbooks," head coach Ron Rivera said after the 38-20 win over Arizona. "We happened to run the right call for the right coverage for it to be a success."
It was first-and-10 with 58 seconds left in the first half, and Carolina broke the huddle with receivers split left – DJ Moore out wide with Jarius Wright and Curtis Samuel in the slot.
The play is designed for Moore, who ran a deep dig into space that had been cleared out by Wright, who took his man straight down the field.
With the Cardinals in man coverage, it had big-play potential written all over it. But Arizona cornerback Tramaine Brock Sr.'s trepidation nearly worked in his favor. The corner was beaten so badly by Wright, he slowed down and didn't seem sure what to do as safety D.J. Swearinger Sr. began to move to cover Wright.
"I knew I was clearing out, but it doesn't always work out like that," Wright said. "There's a lot of things that go into it – that's football. But that worked out perfectly."
The ball from quarterback Kyle Allen was on time, but it nearly hit Brock Sr. square in the back. Nearly being the key word there. Unbeknownst to Brock Sr., Moore secured the catch in stride behind him. Swearinger was now of position as he too ran toward Wright, so a huge lane opened up for Moore to sprint to the end zone down the right side of the field.
"You forgot about me!" Samuel interjected as Wright was breaking the play down. "My role? I was running fast! Faster than DJ!"
That's right, Samuel saw Moore with the ball in the open field and got in the way of linebacker Jordan Hicks. Wright also got into the action by throwing a shoulder into safety Budda Baker.
"They both get all the credit," Moore said with a smile.
But Moore's 52-yard catch-and-run touchdown wasn't the biggest play of the day. That honor goes to running back Christian McCaffrey, who produced the longest touchdown run in franchise history – a 76-yarder in the third quarter.
It was second-and-2 and the Panthers looked intent on running the ball with two tight ends and fullback Alex Armah in the game.
Greg Olsen motioned into the backfield and he and left guard Greg Van Roten pulled to lead the way for McCaffrey. But the right side of the line really opened things up, with right tackle Taylor Moton sealing the edge of the crease and tight end Chris Manhertz working his way to the second level.
"Those feel good when they open up like that," Olsen said. "Sometimes pulling is tough, it gets cloudy and it's hard to find where you're going to fit in. The guards, they just ram up through there, but we try to have a little more finesse. It opened up big and I felt Christian put his hands on my back so I just knew I had to get going."
"Everyone just did their job," Van Roten added. "The right side caved in the D-line. I pulled up and had the backer. The safety was out there as well and Olsen had a really good block. ... If we all block who we are supposed to block, Christian has just one guy to beat. And then, off to the races."
That's indeed what happened. McCaffrey juked away from safety Deionte Thompson and was gone.
"The seals by the offensive line and the tight end created the lane, and Christian hit the lane," Rivera said. "Because it was an eight-man box, because they were up so tight, once he got through, there really was just one guy to make a move on, and he made the move on the safety."
McCaffrey heaped praise on the blocks that paved the way. And he knew it was up to him to make a good play a great one.
"I just stayed patient and made the safety miss. That's my job," McCaffrey said. "That's why Coach Rivera drafted me. When you're one-on-one with anybody you should win."