CHARLOTTE – To its credit, the Panthers offense has found a way to stay on the field without many big plays.
But after last week's loss in New Orleans, offensive coordinator Mike Shula admitted that getting just enough for a first down is a difficult way to play offense.
"It's hard to consistently just drive the ball three, four yards at a time," tight end Greg Olsen said. "It's hard in this league. You are then one negative play, or tackle for loss or one penalty from a drive killer."
Well, following a week where their longest play was 19 yards, chunk plays returned to the Panthers' offense on Sunday against the New York Jets.
"You need those in this league to have success," Olsen said.
Wide receiver Brandon LaFell got it started with a 36-yard catch over the middle on Carolina's second possession, but a 72-yard screen pass to running back DeAngelo Williams was the explosive play the Panthers had longed for.
"That was awesome," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "Talk about taking the wind out of a team's sails."
With the game tied 6-6 and 3:42 remaining in the second quarter, quarterback Cam Newton dropped back to throw on the first play of Carolina's fourth possession.
He initially faked a screen pass left to fullback Mike Tolbert. Then, he spun and tossed the ball to Williams on the other side of the field.
"It's a read by Cam, so it can go either way," Tolbert explained. "When I went out and I turned and I looked, I was thinking, 'Wow. There are a lot of guys over here.' And then he spun and threw it to DeAngelo, and there was nobody on that side of the field."
Aided by guard Travelle Wharton's block, Williams sprinted away from linebacker David Harris down the sideline. The only man left to beat was cornerback Dee Milliner, who was locked up LaFell.
Thanks to LaFell's block and Williams' speed, the Panthers produced their second longest touchdown of the season.
"DeAngelo has that in him," Gross said. "He can take anything to the house."
Williams' touchdown was the electrifying, highlight-reel score, but the Panthers consistently produced chunk plays throughout Sunday's win.
Newton – who completed 16-of-24 passes for 273 yards – averaged 17 yards per completion.
"The play-calling today was great," Gross said. "We were in a much better rhythm. As far as the flow of the game went, we were running the ball well, running play actions, running screens, and that's when we're at our best."
Olsen averaged 17.6 yards per catch on five receptions, including a long of 27 yards.
In addition to his 36-yard reception, LaFell had two other catches for 25 yards.
Wide receiver Ted Ginn's one catch went for 10 yards on third-and-nine, and his one carry picked up 14 yards.
It all amounted to 392 total yards and 6.3 yards per play.
"You have to strike, you have to take chunks of yards, especially against a team with that kind of defense," Olsen said. "You have to take chunks at a time, and we did that today."