(UPDATE: Besides the pass described below, Cam Newton had one of the best games of his short career today. Newton had three touchdown runs -- all of a yard apiece -- and also threw a 19-yard TD pass to Legedu Naanee as Carolina crushed Tampa Bay, 38-19, for its second straight win).
It wasn’t a touchdown, but the Panthers ran one of their most notable plays of the season Sunday in the first quarter – one that will be sure to make the season-ending highlight film. It was a testament to creativity – one of those plays that looks like it was drawn up haphazardly in the backyard but actually had a lot of thought put into it.
On first-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 29, the Panthers put three receivers wide on the right. Then running back DeAngelo Williams motioned out of the backfield to put four receivers on the right. The defense made a corresponding shift.
Quarterback Cam Newton took the snap and immediately threw what looked like a screen to Legedu Naanee. But it was actually a lateral. The other three receivers blocked as Naanee, who was briefly a college quarterback, lofted the ball back to Newton.
Newton hauled in the first reception of his NFL career and took off behind a wall of blockers. He looked like he would score but didn’t, gaining 27 yards to the Tampa Bay 2. Carolina scored shortly after that to take a 14-0 lead.
Overall, it was a gorgeous play on a gorgeous afternoon – and the kind that bolsters offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s resume.