CHARLOTTE – Late in the third quarter of their Week 6 game against the Eagles, the Panthers were down five but had a golden opportunity.
Facing a third-and-16 from his own 19-yard line, Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz immediately felt pressure from Captain Munnerlyn. But when the cornerback stuttered for a split second, Wentz stepped forward, fired a pass and found wideout Mack Hollins for a 20-yard gain. Two plays later, the Eagles extended their lead to 28-16.
"I felt like in the Eagles game I left one out there when I paused. So I said I never wanted to make that mistake again," Munnerlyn admitted Sunday after Carolina's 17-3 win at Tampa Bay.
The ninth-year nickel back, who’s been disappointed with a limited role during his second stint with the Panthers, tied his season high with 33 snaps against the Buccaneers. None were as impactful as the one that helped Carolina snag its first interception since the season opener.
With the Panthers clinging to a 10-3 lead, Tampa Bay had a third-and-7 from its 33. This time, Munnerlyn got home with a blitz, hitting quarterback Jameis Winston's arm to force a floater that fell into the hands of diving safety Mike Adams.
"I've been working on my blitzing for a minute now since (defensive coordinator Steve) Wilks is going to be sending me a lot," Munnerlyn said. "I've got to work on it. I've got to get better at it."
But it's not like he's bad at it.
"I think what makes him such a good blitzer is he's a fast guy, he's physical and he's not afraid," said linebacker Thomas Davis, who saw Munnerlyn total 5.5 sacks during his first go-around in Carolina. "When you have a guy that's willing to go in there and put it all on the line for the team, that's what really makes a good blitzer."
Munnerlyn has 2.0 sacks this season, already more than the 1.0 he totaled during three years with the Vikings. But that's just one part of his job, of course.
"I'm a cornerback at heart. I like to cover," Munnerlyn said. "But at the same time, if it's blitzing to help my team win, I'm cool with it."
He'd also be cool with playing full-time, but that doesn't appear to be in the cards right now. The Panthers want to keep using linebacker Shaq Thompson in their bigger nickel package when the matchup calls for it, and so far this season, the time has called for it much more than Munnerlyn expected when he came back to Carolina with a four-year deal in March.
"If I was in the perfect world, I'd play every down," he said. "But we've got different packages and things like that and three great linebackers.
"I'm still trying to figure out my role with this team."
For Wilks, though, Munnerlyn's role isn't a mystery.
"I think Captain has a good role on this team," Wilks said. "He played a lot more (Sunday), and as you can see, he came up with a tremendous play that led to an interception with Mike Adams.
"His role is defined and I think he's doing a great job."