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Week 16 Game Recap: Carolina Panthers 6, Indianapolis Colts 38


What you need to know

Carolina Panthers

Will Grier’s first NFL start mixed glimpses of veteran savvy with confounding moments. He was poised and confident at times, but his inaccuracy and deep ball woes – many were overthrown or underthrown – put the offense in a bind. He showed good movement skills in and around the pocket and had an aggressive streak, but the interceptions were emblematic of a rookie making his first appearance. Christian McCaffrey was Grier’s best outlet in the game, with check down passes becoming a staple of the offense as the scoreline got out of hand. McCaffrey looked quick, strong, sudden and dangerous on every touch – and gave the Colts all they could handle despite an inept passing attack. D.J. Moore left the game early with a concussion and no other receiver stepped up in his absence, with Curtis Samuel and Jarius Wright doing their best but failing to make up for Grier’s shortcomings. Greg Olsen connected well with his young quarterback but was unable to hook up on a pair of end zone targets. Defensively, the Panthers are a shell of what they used to be, while special teams were a major issue (two punt return touchdowns allowed).

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts posted the score of a dominant offensive team but did not play like it. Two of the Colts touchdowns were punt returns, their first touchdown was set up by another long punt return, many of their drives were aided by penalties, and Jacoby Brissett had one of his worst games of the season throwing the ball. Brissett was inaccurate all game long missing open receivers all over the field. His most impactful contributions were a pair of scrambles. Marlon Mack produced mixed results. Mack was stuffed on 4th down inside the Panthers 5 yard line but otherwise played well. TY Hilton, Zach Pascal, and Jack Doyle each fell victim to Brissett making terrible throws. Nyheim Hines had a historic game returning punts with 2 long punt return touchdowns and another long return to set up a touchdown. Jordan WIlkins had a very impressive drive to ice the game for the Colts racking up 71 yards and a touchdown on a single possession.

Carolina Panthers

QB Will Grier, 70 offensive snaps, Pass: 27 - 44 - 224 - 0 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 4 - 17 - 0
In his first career start, Will Grier appeared to be poised and comfortable under fire – at times. At others, he folded and displayed traits typical of a rookie quarterback making his debut. Grier settled in early with a beautiful seam pass to Greg Olsen, a veteran throw from a rookie. He was mature with his decision making in the first half, throwing the ball away when nothing came open and running for yards when gaps opened. His movement in and around the pocket was good, and he seemed confident when buying time, drifting side to side and eventually finding a receiver downfield. He could have hooked up with Jarius Wright for his first career touchdown pass, but the lofted pass to the back corner of the end zone was a little too high. Grier’s play deteriorated in the second half as pressure built, with rookie left tackle Dennis Daley victimised at times. Grier’s first interception was a poor decision. Rolling right to escape pressure, he saw an opening downfield but ended up firing the ball into triple coverage, giving the Colts an easy takeaway. His accuracy suffered tremendously in the second half as well, with his footwork rushed a little bit. The result was a series of sailed passes, ending drives when completions should have been made. His second pick came on a such a pass, an overthrown ball down the right sideline that hung up long enough for the defensive back to cut underneath it. With the game out of hand, Grier kept firing but was picked a third time – on another deep ball – on an underthrown deep ball. The cornerback was able to catch up to the receiver and undercut the ball, its trajectory too lofted for the receiver to run underneath it.

RB Christian McCaffrey, 63 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 54 - 0, Rec: 15 - 119 - 0 (15 targets)
Christian McCaffrey kept the Panthers offense afloat, much as he has done all season, with another impressive performance. Any time rookie quarterback Will Grier was in trouble he looked to the underneath patterns that McCaffrey excels at, and invariably the do-it-all back made the most of the touches. Though McCaffrey’s opportunities to run the ball were limited, he showed excellent burst, patience, footwork and guile to make yards where there seemed to be none to be had. It was as a receiver that he took over the game, though, making a mockery of Colts tacklers at times with his quickness and after-the-catch moves.

WR Curtis Samuel, 53 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 4 - 0, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (5 targets)
Curtis Samuel became the de-facto number one receiver for the Panthers after D.J. Moore left the game with a concussion. It appeared as if rookie quarterback Will Grier would make it a priority to get Samuel the ball, but an early deep target hung up too long, forcing the receiver to play back through the defensive back to reach it. Samuel was deployed as a rushing attack option on a toss and end around, but in general the offense’s dysfunction limited his opportunities. Grier went back to the well with Samuel on a deep pass late in the game, but much like the previous one it was too short and didn’t allow the receiver to run underneath it.

WR D.J. Moore, 6 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (2 targets)
D.J. Moore left the game early with a concussion and did not return after a pass thrown his way on a quick slant saw the defender pin Moore’s arms as he was falling to the turf. Moore’s inability to brace himself as he fell meant his head collided with the turf.

WR Jarius Wright, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 19 - 0 (5 targets)
With the passing game inconsistent and largely dysfunctional with rookie quarterback Will Grier starting, Jarius Wright became a go-to option. A pair of early targets failed to connect, with the second, a beautifully lofted end zone pass to the back right corner, tipping off Wright’s hands agonisingly. Wright stayed alive on a Grier scramble late in the first half, coming back to his quarterback to secure a first down catch.

TE Ian Thomas, 32 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 16 - 0 (3 targets)
Ian Thomas saw some action in the second half, albeit very little meaningful snaps, as the game got out of hand on the scoreboard. Greg Olsen went out of the game for a series, ceding snaps to Thomas, though the young tight end was only able to connect with his quarterback on a couple of check down passes with the Colts rallying to make the tackle before Thomas could show off his run-after-catch prowess.

TE Greg Olsen, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 33 - 0 (5 targets)
Veteran tight end Greg Olsen made a beautiful catch on a seam route early in the game, a pass that settled rookie quarterback Will Grier down. The route was perfect by Olsen, allowing Grier to locate the passing lane easily. Olsen was the primary target in the red zone, but two attempts to hook up with the tight end by Grier were unsuccessful; one was too high after it appeared Olsen was open, the other was a high pass that was broken up by the Colts defender. Olsen took a backseat in the second half and ceded some snaps to understudy Ian Thomas. He wasn’t quite done, however, and Olsen almost hauled in a pass on a deep ball, only for the ball to carom off his outstretched palms.


Indianapolis Colts

QB Jacoby Brissett, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 14 - 27 - 119 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 37 - 1, Rec: 1 - 2 - 0 (1 targets)
Jacoby Brissett was terrible against the Panthers. Brissett did not turn the ball over but his performance was painful to watch. Brissett was highly inaccurate and played one of his worst games of the season. Brissett missed throws all game long including potential touchdowns to Jack Doyle and TY Hilton. His yardage total probably should have been even lower than it was for how poorly he played. After taking over in excellent field position, thanks to a punt return by Nyheim Hines, the Colts scored a quick touchdown on their opening possession. Brissett capped the drive with a 1 yard quarterback sneak touchdown on 4th and goal. The Colts second drive ended with Brissett missing Zach Pascal downfield. Brissett converted a 3rd down with a 24 yard scramble up the middle. Brissett then found Mo Alie-Cox down the seam for 21 yards to set up a 2 yard touchdown by Marlon Mack. The Colts moved inside the Panthers 5 yard line on their final possession of the half but Mack was stuffed on 4th and 1. The Colts set up a field goal to open the second half with running plays and underneath passes. The Colts offense remained stagnant and hyper conservative as they held a lead in the second half.

RB Marlon Mack, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 95 - 1, Rec: 2 - 6 - 0 (2 targets)
Marlon Mack played well when he was on the field but the Colts struggled to sustain offense for much of the game. Mack consistently picked up positive yardage on his carries. Mack was patient and efficient on his inside carries. Mack found a huge hole off left guard for a 2 yard touchdown. Mack picked up 11 yards running a sweep off left tackle. Mack was stuffed on a 4th and 1 play inside Carolina's 5 yard line. Mack tried to bounce the run to the outside but to no avail. Mack picked up 30 yards on a draw play thanks to impressive patience and nice blocking downfield.

RB Jordan Wilkins, 22 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 84 - 1
Jordan Wilkins was the lone bright spot for the Colts offense. Wilkins made a nice cutback running inside for an 8 yard gain. Wilkins did most of his damage on one possession racking up 71 yards and a touchdown to seal the game for the Colts. Wilkins opened the drive with an impressive 13 yard run on the edge staying in bounds when defenders did not expect him to. Wilkins ran through an arm tackle and burst into the open field for a 38 yard gain. Wilkins builds momentum as he runs and is a load to bring down in the open field. A few plays later Wilkins scored a 1 yard touchdown off right tackle.

RB Nyheim Hines, 11 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 4 - 0, Rec: 1 - 2 - 0 (1 targets)
Nyheim Hines had a huge game returning punts. Hines set up a touchdown on the Colts first possession with a 40 yard punt return. Hines then had a spectacular 86 yard punt return for a touchdown showing off his speed, balance, and agility. Hines out maneuvered 2 defenders and outraced a 3rd to score a 71 yard punt return touchdown his second of the game.

WR T.Y. Hilton, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 26 - 0 (4 targets)
TY Hilton had a quiet game but could have had a long touchdown. Hilton made a 13 yard catch running a comeback route on 3rd and 10. Hilton managed to make the play but looked to have no explosiveness on the play and nearly dropped the pass. Hilton made a 7 yard catch running a slant. Hilton had deep separation on his defender for a potential 65 yard touchdown but Brissett overthrew him by a few yards. Hilton made an 8 yard catch running a quick out route.

WR Zach Pascal, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (3 targets)
Zach Pascal saw only a few targets from Brissett with the Colts holding a lead most of the game. Pascal came open running a deep crossing route but Brissett threw out of his reach. Pascal made a 6 yard catch underneath

TE Jack Doyle, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (4 targets)
Jack Doyle made a few underneath catches but fell victim to Jacoby Brissett's inaccuracy and the game script. Doyle made an 11 yard catch running a curl over the middle. Doyle made a 6 yard catch along the sideline. Doyle appeared to have separation at the goal line but Brissett's throw was way off.