CHARLOTTE – Making plays and building trust in practice is one thing.
But coming up big in the fourth quarter of a game hanging in the balance?
That's going to raise some eyebrows. And that's what running back Reggie Bonnafon did during last Sunday's win over Jacksonville.
"When you get an opportunity to make plays and you take advantage of those opportunities, you are going to get more opportunities," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said.
Turner expressed confidence in Bonnafon early in the game with a small package of plays. But, as is often the case, star running back Christian McCaffrey carried the load from then on – until he got hit with some cramps.
That's when Bonnafon re-entered the game and ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run – the first score of his young career – to give Carolina a 34-27 lead in the closing minutes.
Bonnafon, an undrafted addition who spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad, finished the game with five carries for 80 yards.
"Reggie is such a deserving guy because he's worked so hard," Turner said. "He's probably improved more than any player on offense over the last year and a half."
Bonnafon showed he's ready for more touches going forward, but Turner still plans to maximize the talents of McCaffrey, who is playing at an MVP level through five weeks.
McCaffrey leads the NFL with 587 rushing yards and 866 yards from scrimmage and his six rushing touchdowns tie for second-most in the league.
Turner made mention of a stat that's gotten a lot of attention: McCaffrey and the legendary Jim Brown are the only players to record at least 175 scrimmage yards and one touchdown in four of their team's first five games.
"It's amazing," Turner said. "If you look at what he's done in four of the five, obviously, there is only one guy who has done that, and people think he was the best ever.
"He's on a roll. He can do it all."
After racking up an astounding 285 rushing yards against the Jaguars, Turner credited all the moving parts that came together to make that happen. He also pointed out the misdirection provided by wide receivers Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore, which help create big plays on the ground.
"There is no question it starts with the offensive line and the backs, and them being coordinated and working together. That's what we've been able to do," Turner said. "Our guys understand that everyone on the field is involved in making the run game go. With all the misdirection we have, we make it tough on the safeties. Some of those runs that are 6- or 7-yard runs, we've had a chance to have some breakout runs."