CHARLOTTE, N.C. — All it took was a span of about eight minutes, from late in the second quarter to midway through the third quarter, for the Carolina Panthers to impose their will on the Miami Dolphins.
In that brief amount of time the Panthers scored three touchdowns and basically put the game out of reach as they romped to a 45-21 victory over the Dolphins on Monday Night Football at Bank of America Stadium.
The loss was the third consecutive for the Dolphins (4-5), all coming in prime time on national TV, and drummed up a lot of issues Miami thought it had under control.
The 45 points allowed was a season-worst for the Dolphins, who allowed Baltimore 40 points just three games ago. Miami entered the game allowing 22.4 points per game, 17th in the NFL.
The Dolphins’ defense, the strongest unit on the team, has now allowed an alarming 140 points in the last four games, an average of 30 points per game.
The Dolphins’ run defense, which entered the game allowing just 94 yards per game, 10th-fewest in the NFL, was trampled for a season-worst 294 yards, besting the previous worst (174 by Baltimore) by a sizeable margin. The Panthers’ rushing total threatened Miami’s franchise record of 341 yards.
The offense, which entered averaging 14.5 points per game, worst in the NFL, scored three touchdowns but two of those came in what could be considered desperation time.
Carolina, which was led by quarterback Cam Newton (254 passing yards, four touchdowns, 120.4 passer rating, 95 yards rushing) totaled 548 yards. The Miami franchise record for yards allowed is 611.
It was that kind of night for the Dolphins.
Although the offense saw the season debut of left guard Ted Larsen and the defense saw the season debut of safety T.J. McDonald this was one of the worst statistical performances of the year on both sides of the ball.
The offense, in its second game without running back Jay Ajayi, who was traded to Philadelphia, didn’t do much to make the Carolina defense feel uncomfortable.
Quarterback Jay Cutler (22 of 37, 213 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and an 82.4 passer rating) often threw to spots that weren’t even close to a receiver. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Cutler or the receivers were at fault the majority of the time, but it didn’t matter. The Dolphins’ offense was bad.
Running backs Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake, who combined for 165 yards from scrimmage last week, were non-factors despite their 131 combined yards from scrimmage _ 30 yards receiving and 101 yards rushing.
The wide receivers and tight end were practically non-existent when the game was on the line. The leading receiver in the first half was DeVante Parker, who had three receptions for 27 yards. Things didn’t change much in the second half even though Miami was desperate to score and passing for most of the third and fourth quarters.
The Dolphins’ big blunder in the first half was Cutler’s interception with 47 seconds left. Linebacker Luke Kuechly stepped in front of a pass intended for tight end Julius Thomas and set up the Panthers at the Miami 20-yard line.
From there it only took four plays for Newton to find tight end Ed Dickson for a seven-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left that gave the Panthers a 17-7 halftime lead.
Of course, things got worse early in the second half when Carolina took a 24-7 lead that virtually ended the game.
Carolina drove 78 yards in eight plays with the payoff coming on a 28-yard pass from Newton to wide receiver Devin Funchess with 11:50 remaining.
Then came the game-clincher, a 12-yard dash by running back Cameron Artis-Payne with 7:15 remaining in the third quarter that gave the Panthers a 31-7 lead.