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Special teams make critical contributions in win over Chargers

JJ Jansen

CHARLOTTE — No one ever wants to punt, especially late in the fourth quarter. But when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sacked on third-and-5, Carolina was knocked out of field goal range while clinging to a 21-16 lead. 

But the sign of an improving team is it makes the most of late-game opportunities. Long snapper JJ Jansen did precisely that, providing a critical play that led to the Panthers' first win of the Matt Rhule era.

After sending his snap to punter Joseph Charlton, Jansen sprinted down the middle of the field. He gathered the ball after it bounced at the 6-yard line, possessing it with two feet down at the Chargers' 1. But Jansen tossed the ball back to his teammates, looking to leave no doubt about the play's result.

But after the group of Panthers juggled the ball, it fell in the end zone and referees initially ruled a touchback.

"We're inside of two minutes, so all reviews are initiated by either the replay official at the stadium or us here in New York," NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron told pool reporter Joe Reedy afterward.

"The replay official saw enough to stop the game because he thought that the offensive player had control, two feet down, and once he gains possession of the ball, that play is over. And he did, it was a great stoppage by the replay official. But we looked at it, control, two feet down, therefore he has possession of the football. The play is over and we put the ball on the one-yard line."

So that meant Los Angeles needed to go 99 yards with no timeouts to win instead of 80.

"Great effort by JJ," Rhule said.

Between Jansen's hustle and kicker Joey Slye, it was a strong day for Panthers' special teams. While Slye's one extra point attempt was blocked, he nailed all five of his field goals from 29, 24, 30, 22, and 31 yards making him a solid NFC Special Teams Player of the Week candidate.

"For me to be able to come out and execute on each kick that we were asked on today was a good all-around experience," said Slye, who fell one field goal short of a single-game franchise record set by John Kasay in 2004.

Slye also added to his reputation as a "swole" kicker by making a special teams tackle on a kickoff. He wasn't happy the kick didn't end up as a touchback, so he took out his frustration on Los Angeles' returner, Joe Reed.

Joey Slye tackle

"I'm pissed that I didn't get a touchback," Slye said. "I go out every day trying to set the record for 100 percent touchbacks throughout the season, so I'm kind of upset about that but doing my job at the point on the coverage unit.

"It's nice for me to be able to try to lay someone out."

At times, special teams can be the forgotten third phase of football. But on Sunday, the unit's contributions were crucial in securing the Panthers' first win of 2020.

"It was a really, really good team win and something that I think this group has been waiting to build on," Slye said.

View photos of game action as Carolina takes on the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3.

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