The Panthers got their second win of the season Sunday, defeating the Cardinals 31-21. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater described the victory as a “great team win,” which is an accurate assessment, but there was one play that set the tone for the day.
On the Panthers’ first drive with Carolina facing fourth and two from the Arizona 21, Matt Rhule had a decision to make – attempt a 58 yard field goal, punt and try to down the ball deep in Arizona territory, or go for the fourth down conversion. Without hesitation, Rhule left his team on the field. Teddy Bridgewater scrambled to his right, gaining 6 yards and another set of downs. Seven plays later, Mike Davis was in the end zone for the first of four touchdowns.
After the win Carolina Blitz about the 4th down attempt. Rhule said during the game he is always consulting his analytics team about the probability of such plays, so the decision was easy.
“Taylor Rayjack, who is our director of analytics, is always on the headset with me. He goes over what the sports analytics say and then I also go with my gut.”
Rhule added that the successful 4th down conversion was more about Teddy Bridgewater making a heads-up play than execution.
“We had some sort of miscommunication. Something happened wrong and it was just Teddy, and Teddy found a way to make it happen. That’s been my message from the very beginning with the guys. Great players are way more important than great coaches. Great players figure it out and that was a great example of Teddy figuring it out.”
When asked about the play, Bridgewater echoed the same “figure it out” sentiment.
“We called a naked and wanted the receiver to be on the slot. It was last minute, but this week coach mentioned three letters – F-I-O, figure it out. That’s what we had to do in that situation and we were able to get the first down and stay on the field.”
That “figure it out” moment was crucial for the Panthers. One play blended, objective analytics, subjective gut and good ole play making. It laid the foundation for the most complete game we’ve seen from Carolina this year.