The Panthers offense was surprisingly effective during Christian McCaffrey’s injury absence. His return still gave Carolina an immediate jolt.
Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers offense deserve credit for staying afloat without Christian McCaffrey’s presence in the backfield. That doesn’t mean Carolina thrived without their star running back. It didn’t take McCaffrey very long to remind his teammates just how important he can be.
McCaffrey found the end zone in his first drive since coming off injured reserve for the Panthers. Matt Rhule made the aggressive decision to go for it on 4th and 3 from the Chiefs’ nine-yard line. Bridgewater flipped a short pass out to McCaffrey in the left flat and he was able to scamper into the end zone ahead of any oncoming Kansas City defenders.
It’s not a touchdown that will make McCaffrey’s career highlight reel based on its level of difficulty, but it’s an encouraging sign for a Carolina team that still believes it has a chance to climb back into the playoff picture in the NFC. For that to happen, McCaffrey has to play like an All-Pro. The Panthers need their offense to light up the scoreboard every week to prop up their mediocre defense.
The good news for McCaffrey and his team is that he shouldn’t have to be relied upon quite as heavily as he was before his injury. Mike Davis did a credible job of filling in for him at running back. The Panthers also learned to rely more on wide receivers like Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel without McCaffrey to lean on.
McCaffrey and the Panthers have a lot of work left to do this season, but his health does give his team a major boost. He’ll score more impressive touchdowns as the season rolls along, but his first score post-injury gives everyone in Carolina a big lift.