CHARLOTTE -- Christian McCaffrey is widely considered one of the NFL's most dangerous offensive weapons, and Sunday's game proved why.
The third-year running back turned in one of the best games of his career, doing a little bit of everything for the Panthers in the 30-27 loss to the Rams.
McCaffrey totaled 209 yards from scrimmage, recording 128 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and adding another 81 through the air on 10 receptions. The game marked McCaffrey's second ever game with 200-plus scrimmage yards, and his fifth career game with over 100 yards rushing.
On a day where Cam Newton only attempted one designed run play, McCaffrey more than made up for the quarterback's lack of rushing production, both on the ground and as an outlet where Newton could dump the ball.
"It was awesome," head coach Ron Rivera said of McCaffrey's performance. "He gave us an opportunity coming out of the backfield catching passes and then running the ball the way he did. He gave us an opportunity to win."
In the first half, McCaffrey alone accounted for 101 of the Panthers 158 total yards, but he didn't show any signs of slowing down in the second half. As linebacker Luke Kuechly said, McCaffrey always seems to look fresh no matter the circumstances.
"I felt good, I felt good all game," McCaffrey said. "Obviously teams start wearing down, but that's kind of when you thrive, when other teams start to get tired. But I felt good all game."
Midway through the third quarter, McCaffrey scored the Panthers' first touchdown of the season on an 8-yard rush after a direct snap. Newton and McCaffrey aligned in the shotgun, but shifted over just before the snap, allowing McCaffrey to catch the ball and fake a handoff to Newton before plunging into the end zone.
"It was a good play," McCaffrey said. "Well-designed play, good call, and O-line did an unbelievable job all day blocking. Those guys showed up ready to go, they opened up a heck of a hole and it was my job to hit it."
Later, after a blocked punt set the Panthers up at the Rams five yard line, McCaffrey's extra effort helped him find the end zone again on a 2-yard rush.
McCaffrey was a man possessed late in the fourth quarter, shedding tacklers on runs of 23 and 18 yards to set up Carolina's final touchdown -- a 1-yard dive up the middle by fullback Alex Armah.
"There were some good things we did, some bad things we did," McCaffrey said. "Our job is to make plays and limit our mistakes, if we do that we can be a very good football team."
Despite McCaffrey's stellar performance, he didn't get the one stat that actually matters to him.
Anyone who knows the star running back knows he'd trade all the stats to be 1-0.
"Obviously we didn't win," McCaffrey said. "We've got a lot of fighters, and that's a good sign. That's a sign of a team that's not going to back down no matter what's happening. We've got a long season ahead of us and we'll learn from our mistakes and get rolling into next week."