CHARLOTTE, N.C. – McCaffrey Mayhem proved better than Minshew Mania.
Just by a touch, but a touch was enough.
Carolina Panthers running back and NFL Most Valuable Player Candidate Christian McCaffrey ran through the Jaguars’ defense early and often Sunday, scoring three touchdowns and helping the Panthers withstand a Jaguars rally in a 34-27 Carolina victory in front of 72,762 at Bank of America Stadium.
“We’re better than we played,” Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said. “We made a lot of mistakes. The positive is we fought. That’s never a question with our team. We’re going to fight. We’re tough. And we had a chance at the end.”
Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II rallied the Jaguars from a 21-7 first-half deficit to within one point – 28-27 – in the second half. But three giveaways and a struggling run defense were too much for the Jaguars to overcome.
The Jaguars had a final chance in the closing seconds. A pass from Minshew to wide receiver Marqise Lee gave them a first down at the Panthers 34 with :19 remaining, but Minshew’s final pass from the 24-yard line was incomplete on a final, untimed down.
The Jaguars slipped to 2-3. The Panthers (3-2) won a third consecutive game.
Minshew completed 26 of 44 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in his fourth career start. Wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. continued a standout second NFL season, catching eight passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
But Minshew lost three fumbles, with the first leading to a touchdown by McCaffrey and the second turning into a 56-yard return for a touchdown by linebacker Brian Burns.
“Those are all on me; that can’t happen,” Minshew said. “When stuff like that happens, sometimes you don’t give yourself a chance to win. That’s what I feel like we did, what I did.”
Minshew’s third lost fumble ended a Jaguars drive when he was sacked at the Panthers 47 by Burns. The Jaguars had reached the Panthers 39 with 2:37 remaining and trailed by the final margin.
McCaffrey, who entered the game leading the NFL in rushing and total yards, rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He had a career-long 84-yard touchdown run to start the second half.
McCaffrey also caught six passes for 61 yards and a first-half touchdown.
“We came into the game thinking that we wanted to stop Christian McCaffrey and control him,” Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said. “Obviously, he had a really good day and that hurt us.”
Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen, also making his fourth career start, completed 17 of 30 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
The Jaguars registered three sacks Sunday, with defensive end Yannick Ngakoue getting two and defensive end Josh Allen adding one. Defensive end Calais Campbell also had a big play, blocking a 56-yard field goal attempt by Panthers kicker Joey Slye late in the first half to keep the Carolina lead at seven points.