The oft-forgotten step-son of the turnover differential formula is the giveaways part. Takeaways by the defense are the fun part. Holding on to the ball and not throwing interceptions or fumbling it away? Not so sexy.
And yet, the Panthers are proving that it’s just as important to limit turnovers as it is to create them.
Throughout the summer and early fall, quarterback Cam Newton repeatedly harped on the need to take care of the ball. To not throw interceptions. To make good decisions.
He's put those words into action.
The Panthers have only committed seven giveaways - four interceptions and three fumbles - through the first half of the season.
That number ties for third-fewest in the NFL this season, behind the Falcons (5) and the Chargers (6). Carolina also has the fewest total giveaways and fewest interceptions through the first half of a season in franchise history.
Newton’s fewest interceptions in a season were 10 in 2015, his MVP season. He’s on pace for eight this year.
Carolina has played three games in a row without a giveaway (three consecutive wins), and has four total games this year without giveaways, tying for the most in the NFL.
The impact is obvious.
When the Panthers allowed the Giants to come back and take a fourth-quarter lead in Week 5, two interceptions from Newton were contributing factors. When the Redskins jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half, two fumbles from DJ Moore and an interception from Newton kept Carolina from regaining any traction and gave Washington short fields.
This season, Carolina ranks fifth with opponents on average starting at their own 25.5-yard line. In the Panthers two losses, that average was the 30.1. The Panthers had four giveaways in those two games.
Giveaways affect everything. They impact offensive flow, turn momentum and put pressure on the defense in a sudden-change situation.
Last season, of the top 14 teams in fewest giveaways, 10 made the playoffs. In 2016, it was nine. In 2015, eight.
For this Panthers offense, limiting giveaways isn’t a passive activity. It’s not about playing it safe. It’s proactive decision-making.
Newton has the second-most pass attempts through eight games in his career (263) and he has the most completions (177).
Carolina has the most rushing yards (1,151) through the first eight games since 2011.
This Panthers offense is opening up the field with all sorts of creative plays. But the non-flashy plays, the patience and attention to detail - that's what could keep Carolina thriving into the second half of the season.
View the top photos from Panthers vs. Buccaneers by team photographer, Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez, and second shooter, Jason Miczek.