The first 15 minutes were, for lack of a better word, perfect.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, they had to play another 45.
Their best offensive start of the season — and a defensive stand to match for a minute — unraveled after that early burst, with the Dolphins overcoming a 14-0 deficit to take a 42-21 win at Hard Rock Stadium.
It obviously wasn’t the result they wanted as they fell to 0-6 entering the bye week, but that first quarter was a thing of beauty, with Chuba Hubbard running for his first touchdown of the season and Bryce Young following with a touchdown pass to Adam Thielen for a 14-0 lead with six seconds left in the quarter.
It was a stunning start, made more surprising by the fact they forced the Dolphins into three-and-outs on their first two possessions.
Considering that the Dolphins lead the league in all of the big offensive categories (averaging 513.6 yards and 36.2 points per game), no one really expected that to last for long.
And it didn’t.
The Dolphins scored quick touchdowns on their next three possessions in the second quarter to take a 21-14 lead at the break and didn’t look back.
The Panthers aren’t at a place where they can trade haymakers with an offense like Miami’s for long, and the difference in talent became clear at a certain point. But they did stay in the game longer than anticipated, and continued to make some degree of progress. In a game no one expected them to win, that’s at least something.
— Again, nobody here is in the moral victory business, but it was Young’s best game of the season.
He finished 23-of-38 for 217 yards and the touchdown to Thielen.
He found more and more shots downfield, and especially in the first half, looked more comfortable moving the ball. The Dolphins got to him more often. (He was sacked four times.) But on the whole, it was a positive outing for him, with more chances beyond the line of scrimmage.
— The Panthers lost wide receiver/running back Laviska Shenault Jr. to an ankle injury in the first half.
He was carted to the locker room afterward and did not return to the game.
Shenault continued to contribute as a runner and receiver and returner and was involved in a gutsy play.
He caught a fourth-down fake punt pass from Johnny Hekker and appeared close to stretching it for the first down.
After a lengthy review, it was ruled short, but it was the kind of go-for-it move the Panthers frankly needed against a team with the kind of offense the Dolphins have.
The Dolphins had scored to cut the Panthers’ lead to 14-7, and from the 49-yard line, it was the kind of chance to take. Of course, the Dolphins tied it quickly with a three-play touchdown drive.
— The injuries continued to stack up on defense, which they don’t need.
Outside linebacker Yetur Gross-Matos left the game in the second half with a hamstring injury and did not return to the game. Without him available, the Panthers got a longer look at rookie DJ Johnson on defense.
Linebacker Frankie Luvu also left the game with a hip injury in the fourth quarter, the continuation of a previous problem.
— The game got a little out of hand in the second half, but the Panthers continued to fight, figuratively and literally.
Cornerback Troy Hill got a pick-six off backup quarterback Mike White to make it a two-score game late, continuing a run of solid play for the veteran.
Prior to that, Hekker got into it with Dolphins linebacker Cameron Goode after a punt, and drew an unneccesary roughness penalty for head-butting him. Goode clearly embellished the contact, but on a day when he also completed a pass, Hekker was all over the box score.
Source: Carolina Panthers