Four quick hits from the Panthers' 31-21 win over the Bengals.
If the Panthers were going to beat the Bengals on Sunday, they'd have to do it through the air. At least, that's what it looked like when you looked at the pregame stats.
Cincinnati came in with the league's third-best rush defense. They ranked 30th against the pass.
So of course the Panthers ran roughshod.
Carolina's makeshift offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, piling up 230 rushing yards against a defense that allowed just 141 in their first two games. And after grabbing 14 passes last week in Atlanta, of course Christian McCaffrey caught just two Sunday while running 28 times for 184 yards. That shattered his career high by 118.
Gotta love football's unpredictability.
We pay close attention to McCaffrey's numbers, and Sunday's were impressive. But what doesn't show up in the box score is how effective he can be as a decoy. Case in point: how he helped set up the Panthers' first four touchdowns.
First, Cam Newton was able to cruise in on a naked bootleg after faking a handoff to McCaffrey. Another fake to the second-year back later opened up a lane for Newton to hit Devin Funchess on a quick slant. Then, the Bengals followed McCaffrey as Newton faked a pitch to him on the right side which opened up the left side for a 24-yard throwback to C.J. Anderson. And in the third quarter, Newton placed the ball near McCaffrey's stomach for about two seconds before Carolina's quarterback ran ahead for an easy score.
With McCaffrey such a focal point of the offense, the Bengals had to have their eyes on him. Yet he didn't even need to have the ball to burn them time and again.
The Efe Obada story was already movie-worthy. On Sunday, he sure added to the screenplay.
The Nigerian-born Obada, who was trafficked to England when he was 8, made a huge splash in his regular-season debut. In the second quarter, he was initially credited with a strip-sack before that was overturned by replay. There was no reversing his moment in the third when he dove to intercept a ball that was deflected by James Bradberry.
Sidelines get excited when guys make plays, but the Panthers' sideline was especially ecstatic for Obada, who added a sack late in the fourth quarter. It was enough to make you wonder who's writing this script.
3-0 would've been nice, sure, but the Panthers wanted to go into their early-season bye at no worse than 2-1. That's what they're doing.
Now they can lick some of their wounds and perhaps even get guys like Trai Turner and Greg Olsen back by the time they host the Giants in Week 5. Regardless, a home game against an organization that's retooling is a game the Panthers will be favored to win.