Ron Rivera fully embraced his role as "Riverboat Ron" on Sunday, calling a gritty play to set up a game-winning touchdown drive as the Panthers beat the Dolphins, 20-16.
With 2:33 left in the game and the ball on their own 20-yard line, Rivera put the ball in the hands of Cam Newton to make a completion on 4th-and-10. The struggling quarterback had issues throughout the day, but found Steve Smith to keep the game-winning drive alive. Newton led the team 80 yards down field, finding Greg Olsen on a late touchdown.
Newton had issues in the first half following a hit early in the game that left the Panthers quarterback spitting up blood and noticeably shaken. He was unable to recover until the third quarter, settling after the break to play much better in the second half. The 10-point hole looked to be too much, but the final drive he orchestrated could have been Newton's best as a pro, showing he had what it took to fight adversity.
Normally hailed for its dominant defense, Carolina was unable to prevent deep passes or generate a reliable pass rush. The team managed just two total sacks, despite playing against a poor offensive line that has allowed Ryan Tannehill to be the most-pressured quarterback in the NFL. The Panthers were missing top defensive end Charles Johnson, and it showed. The normally-reliable Greg Hardy was unable to make an impact, and the secondary crumbled with Tannehill having time in the pocket.
The Dolphins drew the blueprint for how teams need to beat the Panthers, even if it didn't work. Throwing deep exposed the team's flawed secondary and while receiver Mike Wallace was great, he didn't need to do too much against cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who was over-matched for much of the day. Tannehill was a smart, efficient passer as he finished with 310 yards and a passer rating of 86.4.
Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were unable to run the ball due to a stout defensive front, but the Dolphins didn't shy away from taking chances downfield. In the past they've tried to move the chains with short passing to Charles Clay, but the fullback was hardly used, touching the ball just four times.
Fantasy studs and duds
Mike Wallace was fantastic in the loss, finishing with 127 yards and a touchdown.
Cam Newton won the game, but only accumulated 225 total yards and two scores.
Miami running back Daniel Thomas left the game in the second half with a left leg injury and did not return.
Did they cover?
The Carolina Panthers were 4.5-point favorites, according to OddsShark. They failed to cover with the four-point win.
Dec. 1: Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dec. 1: Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets