CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – Well, well, well, the Carolina Panthers ARE capable of running the football.
In the Panthers’ upset win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Carolina offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo used running backs in 26 ground plays.
And that was with Chuba Hubbard, D’Onta Foreman — along with the first two career carries from Raheem Blackshear.
That’s more than he used star veteran rusher Christian McCaffrey on the ground in any game this season prior to his trade to the San Francisco 49ers.
While McCaffrey garnered 25 carries in Week 3 at home against the New Orleans Saints, he never had more than 15 in any of the other five games with the Panthers this season.
He was held to under 35 rushing yards in two of those games, as well as 54 and 69 in two others.
If you thought Carolina helped make up the pass-catching back’s yardage totals through the air — forget about it.
If you’re on the argument that McCaffrey, 26, needed to be moved because of his looming contract since he’s the highest paid back in the NFL, you’d be wrong again.
McCaffrey has a $990,000 salary this year after the Panthers reworked his contract, making him fit under the salary cap. He is owed approximately $36 million over the next three years, but none of it is guaranteed.
The pass-catching back proved early success, playing in all 16 games his first three seasons for Carolina and posting 1,000-plus yard years in two of them. McCaffrey tallied 2,920 yards in that span, with career highs in yards (1,387) and touchdowns (15) in 2019 before needing two seasons to reach double-digit games played again.
Prior to his usage in his first game with the 49ers, McCaffrey had 7,272 yards from scrimmage — 3,980 rushing and 3,292 receiving — and scored 50 touchdowns since coming into the league as the No. 8 overall pick in 2017.
Yet, in a game Carolina was heavy underdogs in on Sunday against Tampa Bay, the tandem of Hubbard (9) and Foreman (15) combined for 24 carries and 181 rushing yards. Hubbard also found the end zone. McCaffrey only tallied two rushing scores on the year for Carolina.
Could you argue Panthers players were even more mad at the direction their team is continuing to go in 2022?
One win heading into Week 7? Fired a head coach that couldn’t find a way to win? Another new quarterback that doesn’t seem to be doing much good in moving the team forward? A starting wide receiver and a franchise running back traded days apart? Sure, you could argue that.
But coordinators are still running the offense and calling plays.
The players that are left aren’t just suddenly choosing the game script.
So McAdoo GAVE Hubbard and Foreman those rushing opportunities.
Even against one of the tougher defenses, and opponents, in the NFL.
Christian McCaffrey would still be running in Charlotte if McAdoo gave him the ball, too.