LONDON – Christian McCaffrey has played so well, an “MVP” chant broke out inside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Kyle Allen has been a revelation, becoming the first Panthers’ quarterback to go 5-0 in his first five career starts.
But when head coach Ron Rivera was asked Sunday to pick out the biggest reason why the Panthers have rattled off four straight wins after starting the season in an 0-2 hole, he offered two reasons.
“Getting the takeaways and getting to the quarterback,” Rivera said after Carolina’s 37-26 win over Tampa Bay.
Let’s start with his first point.
In their first two games, the Panthers had four turnovers and just one takeaway for a minus-3 turnover differential.
In their last four games, they have five turnovers and 14 takeaways for a plus-9 ratio.
What’s more, the Panthers didn’t score off of that lone turnover in the first two games. But those 14 takeaways this past month? They’ve led to 54 points, including 20 Sunday off a franchise record-tying seven takeaways.
“Thievery comes at a high rate when it comes,” safety Tre Boston said. “Thieves have been doing a great job, but I think our front seven has been doing an amazing job as well during this run.
“When you turn those dogs loose, you may as well call the police, because the thieves are coming right with them.”
Which brings us to the second part of Rivera’s reasoning. The pressure has ramped up at an incredible rate.
In the Panthers’ first two games, they totaled four sacks. But over the past four weeks, they’ve racked up 24 sacks, including seven on Sunday.
“All I can say is all the doubters, all the people that wrote us off, don’t try to jump back on the bandwagon now,” said edge rusher Bruce Irvin, who was credited with just a half-sack but whose pressure directly led to one of five Jameis Winston interceptions.
So now the Panthers will fly back from London and head into their bye on their longest win streak since midway through the 2017 season. That sure is a long way from where they were the last time they played the Bucs. A month ago, many outside the locker room wondered if the sky was falling. Now the Panthers are one of the NFL’s hottest teams.
“The biggest thing is we’ve learned. We’ve learned about how good we can be,” Rivera said. “Coming into the season, I’m not sure if we really truly knew or understood what our potential was. But to play the way we did against the Rams and have a chance at the end, and then do the same thing with Tampa — play the way we did and have a chance at the end, I think our guys realized, ‘You know what, if we can make some things happen, take advantage of some breaks, we’ll have a chance to win.’
“That’s what they’ve done. They’ve given themselves a chance to win and they’ve taken advantage of it.”