CHARLOTTE – Early in the fourth quarter of the Panthers' game on Aug. 21 against the New York Jets, Mike Goodson bobbled a kickoff in the end zone and then thought about kneeling for a touchback, only to opt to bring it out.
There was no escape.
Flash forward one week, when Goodson confidently fielded a kickoff on the 9-yard line and sped up the middle, only to have a couple of Tennessee Titans got their hands on him near the 25-yard line.
This time, Goodson pulled off a great escape.
One week after Goodson's attempt to make something happen resulted in the Panthers taking possession inside the 5-yard line, Goodson's 91-yard return for a touchdown set up the Panthers inside the Titans' 5 for a PAT.
"When you make a mistake and you have your teammates counting on you, you want to show those guys that you're here for a reason. I wanted to make up for what I did the previous week," Goodson said. "They tell you to just go onto the next play, but as a competitor, you want to get out there and make a play."
That wasn't the only play that Goodson, a key backup at running back, made in the Panthers' 15-7 victory over the Titans. On a drive toward the end of the third quarter that resulted in a field goal, Goodson exploded through a hole on the right side for a 27-yard gain, and two plays later he turned a screen pass into an 18-yard gain.
"It felt good to get out there and make a couple of plays," Goodson said. "The coaching staff put me in great positions to make plays in open field, in open space. On the run, the line made a great block. They sealed the edge, and all I had to do was hit it. There were some good holes.
"On the kickoff, we had a nice little wall built up. When I hit the wall, they didn't wrap me up, and I got out the back side."
On the Panthers' previous drive, one that resulted in a field goal breaking a scoreless tie, reserve running back Tyrell Sutton took a screen pass for a 20-yard gain, but Sutton did hurt his shoulder on the play.
Sutton didn't practice Monday, but Goodson, who left the game after his kickoff return because of dehydration, did.
Even though the Panthers have the dynamic duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart at running back, they need players like Goodson and Sutton to be healthy.
"We have Jonathan and DeAngelo, but me and Sutt want to make a little bit of noise, too," Goodson said. "Show them that we're here."
Goodson played a prominent role as a kickoff returner early last season, his rookie year out of Texas A&M, but later in the season he gave way to Sutton and Kenny Moore.
Much like his contrasting kickoff returns over the last couple of preseason games, Goodson approached the offseason as if he wanted to make amends.
"He worked very hard this offseason," head coach John Fox said. "A second-year player typically does make a pretty good jump. He put a lot of time in the weight room, conditioning and in his playbook, so I think he's playing faster.
"He's always had good natural speed but now he's playing faster, and I think you were able to see that the other night."