D.J. Moore latest playmaker to emerge for balanced Panthers
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — It was D.J. Moore’s turn to be a young standout for the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers’ first-round draft pick from Maryland had a team-high five receptions for 90 yards and also gained 39 yards on electrifying runs on back-to-back plays, including a 28-yard dash around right end that proved to be Carolina’s biggest run of the day, in a dominating 36-21 win against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Each week it seems to be a different young player — either on offense or defense — who steps up and produces for coach Ron Rivera’s team.
With starting wide receiver Torrey Smith out with a knee injury, Moore took advantage of a chance to produce just as running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Curtis Samuel, cornerback Donte Jackson and Nigerian-born defensive end Efe Obada have done in previous games.
“D.J. is such an exceptional talent and dynamic player with the ball in his hands. We have to find ways to get the ball in his hands,” quarterback Cam Newton said. “From running the football to toss sweeps to chucking the ball down-field, he’s ready for it.”
Moore, who had a 51-yard TD catch earlier this season, has an opportunity to build off his big game next week against Tampa Bay, which entered the weekend allowing a league-high 328 yards passing per game.
“We knew they were going to be aggressive, but we knew we just had to go out there and execute the game plan,” said Moore, who estimated he split reps during the week with fellow receiver Curtis Samuel. “We had a good game plan going in for third downs, and we didn’t want to get backed up so we could keep attacking.”
Things we learned from Carolina’s win over Baltimore on Sunday:
KEEPING CAM CLEAN
Turns out this Panthers offensive line might not be too bad after all, even after losing starting offensive tackles Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams earlier this season to injuries.
Newton praised his patchwork offensive line for how well they’ve been playing. He’s been sacked only five times in the last five games.
“For a bunch of guys who were labeled as undesirables or misfits, they sure are doing a good job,” said Newton, who wasn’t sacked on Sunday and threw for two touchdowns and ran for another .
Joe Flacco’s pace for a career year took a turn at Carolina.
Flacco entered the game with only four interceptions and 11 touchdown passes in seven games, but Carolina picked him off twice and Flacco threw one touchdown pass before giving way to Lamar Jackson in the fourth quarter.
Flacco drove Baltimore to a 7-0 lead on the team’s first possession. After that Flacco and the offense sputtered while Carolina moved the ball at will. The result: A second straight loss and Flacco’s season-low 56.8 passer rating.
“Even that drive, it was tough,” Flacco said. “They made everything tough today and they made us go the long, hard way. . We only took a couple of little shots here and there, and weren’t able to get any real chunk yardage out of anything.”
Baltimore has home divisional games against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati with a bye in between to figure things out.
“We are not in the most ideal situation possible, but we still have eight games left,” Flacco said. “I feel like we have the opportunity to play really good football. We just have to make sure to keep the focus on that.”
Some good news for the Ravens was that rookie first-round draft pick Hayden Hurst started to emerge. Plagued by a foot injury early in the season, Hurst came in with one catch for 7 yards. But he hauled in a 26-yard score from Jackson with 1:02 to play.
“Hopefully, the first of many,” said Hurst, fighting for reps in a scheme that leans heavily on tight end. He’s third on the depth chart among four on Baltimore’s roster.
Wide receiver Willie Snead IV led the team with 54 yards receiving, but got flagged for two offensive pass interference penalties on the same drive. “I’m just playing my game,” Snead said. “I’ve always been doing that. I’m not going to change it.”
Christian McCaffrey had the luck of the bounce on his side on Sunday. Ravens defensive back Eric Weddle deflected a pass near the goal line and McCaffrey leaped over a defender to catch a first-half touchdown. It was one of many balls that seemed to bounce Carolina’s way. Moore had a 28-yard run after dropping a pitchout from Cam Newton when the ball bounced right back in his arms.
NFC SOUTH RACE
Yes, it’s still two months away — and much can happen — but the NFC South seems destined to come down to two head-to-head games between the Saints and the Panthers in the final three weeks of the season. The Panthers host the Saints on Dec. 17, then visit New Orleans in the season finale on Dec. 30