It wasn’t pretty, but the Carolina Panthers earned their first win of the year and the first NFL win for rookie head coach Matt Rhule, beating the Los Angeles Chargers, 21-16. The Panthers held on as a last-minute drive by the Chargers fell short, helping Carolina snap a 10-game losing streak.
The Panthers scored just one touchdown on the day, with five other drives ending in field goals to give Carolina the winning margin, despite 330 passing yards from Los Angeles rookie quarterback Justin Herbert.
“For some of the guys it’s been 10 straight losses,” Rhule said. “I’m not carrying that. It was two for me. But when you’re a young guy and that’s all you hear, it can weigh on you.”
1. The final two minutes were filled with drama as five Panthers teamed up to kill a punt on the 1-yard line. The play was originally ruled a touchback, but replays showed that two different Panthers special-teamers successfully downed the ball before it reached the end zone.
2. Herbert showed his youth, taking short completions in the middle of the field to quickly run the clock down to under 30 seconds. A long completion put the Chargers on the Carolina 28 with 13 seconds left. On the first attempt at a game-winning touchdown, Panthers corner Troy Pride Jr. fell down but Tre Boston jumped to bat away a potential scoring pass in the end zone. On the next play, the Chargers ran a hook and lateral that gave Austin Ekeler an open path to the end zone at the 15. He dropped the lateral pass, however, and time ran out.
3. Mike Davis rushed 13 times for 46 yards and Reggie Bonnafon added 16 yards on two rushes as the Panthers played their first game without Christian McCaffrey, out for four-to-six weeks with a high-ankle sprain. Coach Matt Rhule said that the Chargers had a tough run defense, which made the going tough on the ground, but he pointed out that both backs had long runs at key times. Davis also caught a 13-yard pass for the Panthers only touchdown.
Number to Know
15 and 3 — This was the first time in 15 games that the Panthers have given up fewer than 20 points on defense, snapping a streak that was the longest in team history. The win also kept another streak alive — quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has never lost three straight starts in his career.
They Said It
“It was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless.”
— Panthers coach Matt Rhule
Player of the Game
J.J. Jansen, Panthers long snapper — Jansen was credited with downing the punt on the 1-yard line with less than two minutes left. “I think if you talk to J.J., he thinks he’s going to be the hero every game,” kicker Joey Slye said.
Slye continued his roller-coaster tenure with the Panthers. He had five field goals on the day to provide the winning margin for the Panthers, but he had a PAT attempt blocked on Carolina’s only touchdown. Slye also had a special teams tackle, although he pointed out that that was only necessary because he wasn’t able to get a touchback.