CHARLOTTE – They know what’s coming and they still can’t stop it.
There’s no greater feeling for an offensive line. It’s a feeling the Panthers thoroughly enjoyed during Sunday’s 34-27 win over Jacksonville.
Carolina ran for an astounding 285 yards against the Jaguars, 14 yards shy of a franchise record.
“That’s not bad,” right tackle Taylor Moton said with a smile.
The Panthers kept it pretty simple against the Jaguars. So simple that offensive coordinator Norv Turner kept calling the same run play again and again.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever in my career heard the same play call so many times,” tight end Greg Olsen said.
In the third quarter, running back Christian McCaffrey ran through a huge hole on the left side for an 84-yard touchdown – the longest touchdown run in franchise history.
In the fourth quarter, running back Reggie Bonnafon ran through a huge role on the right side for a 59-yard touchdown – the first touchdown of his career.
It was the same play to the other side.
“It’s kind of like this: Defenses call blitzes until you pick them up and we ran the same play until they could stop it,” left guard Greg Van Roten said. “And they didn’t.
“That was a good play for us. I don’t think we thought it was going to be that successful.”
Van Roten described the play as a “mid zone” run. The Panthers used some pre-snap motion with Olsen coming across the formation, and they also utilized some post-snap motion with wide receiver Curtis Samuel running into the backfield as a decoy for a fake handoff.
“It’s a little bit tighter than outside zone. The back can take an angle and he reads the first guy,” Van Roten explained. “If they over-pursue, which Jacksonville does, there is a big, fact cutback lane.”
McCaffrey used that big, fat cutback lane for his 84-yarder. Bonnafon did the same for his 59-yarder. Both made the last defender miss to take it the distance.
“That was a play that was working for us,” Bonnafon said. “I took the coaching points and remembered what I saw when C-Mac was running it.”
The two long touchdown runs weren’t the only times Carolina dialed up that mid zone run. It was used throughout the game, and chunk runs were piled up, as evidenced by the Panthers needing just 27 carries to reach 285 yards (10.6 per attempt).
“You hear that same play called over and over and over again and you know that you’re imposing your will,” center Matt Paradis said. “That’s a fun time.”
“It’s pretty awesome to run a play that they know we’re going to run and they still can’t do anything about it,” Moton said. “It’s a pretty awesome feeling.”
"It gets to the point where you have success with it," Van Roten said, "and then you hear it again and you’re like, 'Nice. Let’s run this again.'"
And consider this: Carolina had this incredibly productive day on the ground without Pro Bowl right guard Trai Turner (ankle injury) and with sixth-round pick Dennis Daley having to start his first career game at left tackle in place of fellow rookie Greg Little (concussion).
It’s no surprise veteran run game coordinator / offensive line guru John Matsko was awarded a game ball in the victorious locker room.
“It just shows you when you continue to work hard, you have a group of guys who do the things that they need to, they can create some running lanes, and they did that,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “They did a heck of a job.”