What We Saw: Week 9

James Conner can still be relied upon as an RB1 when needed

Patriots @ Panthers

Final Score: Patriots 24, Panthers 6

Writer: Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)


After taking a monster shot to the head in last week’s game against Atlanta, Sam Darnold was still able to take the field in Week 9 against New England. Carolina probably wishes he hadn’t, though. Darnold looked lost for much of this game as New England’s defense stymied him and the Carolina offense pretty much right from the get-go. Darnold threw three interceptions, including two to J.C. Jackson who took one back for an 88-yard pick-six and went up to make a spectacular grab in the end zone for another.

Week 9 also saw the return of Christian McCaffery, an exciting development for both Panthers fans and anyone who had the top pick in their fantasy football drafts, but McCaffery’s usage in his first game back should be questioned by all. He didn’t see his first target until the third quarter, and it wasn’t until the game was already out of hand that he started piling up yards through the air. It was just flat-out strange to watch.

There was some clear frustration on the Carolina sideline for much of the fourth quarter, and at this point, it’s safe to question how valuable anyone in that offense will be for fantasy purposes this season, including McCaffery.



On the New England side of the ball, Mac Jones was better than he was in Week 8 but he still struggled with consistency for much of the game. New England instead focused on the running game, and while it wasn’t a spectacular beatdown by any means they still racked up a considerable 151 yards on the ground, their best rushing output of the season. Damien Harris earned a touchdown, but Rhamondre Stevenson was the most dynamic back in the offense today. Both went down with injury late, and that’s a situation to monitor heading into their Week 10 matchup against Cleveland. New England won this one 26-6.




Mac Jones: 12/18, 139 yards, TD, INT, 2 sacks, Fumble (Lost) | 2 carries, 4 yards


Mac Jones bounced back in this game and wasn’t as bad as he was in Week 8, but it still wasn’t great from a fantasy perspective. The offense started off a little rocky early on with a few penalties on their first drive of the day, including a delay of game that was Mac’s fault. The offense would have another delay of game later on that was again an instance of Mac not being able to manage the clock properly. This isn’t becoming an issue just yet, but it’s just another reminder that the young signal-caller is still a rookie.

After punts on both of their first two drives, Mac was strip-sacked on their third drive and ended up turning it over.



Two things to note on this play. First, Isaiah Wynn, New England’s starter at LT, blew his protection and allowed the defender to come at Jones pretty much untouched. Second, there is some controversy around the play because Jones grabbed the defender’s ankle after the sack which prevented him from getting to the ball. It also injured the defender on the play, and he would later leave the game after re-aggravating this same injury. Some are calling it dirty, others are calling it smart, I call it a dumb decision but not dirty.



Mac should probably be fined for the trip with his legs more than the grab of the ankle, but otherwise, I don’t think it’s much of anything besides some bad blood between two players who have played against each other going back to high school (as stated on the broadcast).

Jones really wasn’t asked to do much in this one. He had a nice sideline pass to Brandon Bolden at one point, and he threw a bullet to Hunter Henry in the end zone for his only passing TD of the day. I thought he could have had a second TD here had he moved in the pocket to buy himself more time, but he made a smart decision to simply throw the ball to a spot where it wouldn’t have been intercepted. This was a spot where a mistake could have gotten Carolina back in the game and he didn’t make one.



Mac did have a bad interception midway through the second quarter. It was a designed pick play that was poorly executed, and Mac keyed in on the receiver, throwing it to him anyway. Stephon Gilmore, the former Patriot, jumped the route and picked it off. Mac should have noticed the tight coverage after the failed pick but he threw it basically right into Gilmore’s hands.



Overall, there were more positives than negatives for Jones in this one, but his fantasy relevance is still contained to only the deepest of leagues.


Running Backs


Damien Harris: 15 carries, 30 yards, TD | 1 target, 1 reception, 3 yards

Rhamondre Stevenson: 10 carries, 62 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 44 yards

Brandon Bolden: 8 carries, 54 yards, Fumble | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 27 yards


The Patriots ground game excelled in this one, and the charge was mostly led by Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden. Stevenson looked like the most athletic back on the field, taking a screen for 41 yards and then shoving a defender out of the way a few plays later.




He would end up getting hurt later in the game, a head injury, and he didn’t return.



Damien Harris scored his touchdown after Stevenson single-handedly brought New England into scoring position with his 41-yard reception and a few carries on the ground. This backfield has been led by Harris so far this season, but today we got to see the best of Stevenson and that could mean this will be more of a two-headed attack moving forward. That is if both of them can remain healthy. Just like Stevenson, Harris got shaken up with a head injury and left the game.



Brian Burns is the same guy who strip-sacked Mac Jones, had his ankle grabbed, and subtly kicked Stevenson in the head on the play he was injured. Burns was truly all over the field in this game. Regarding Harris, this could end up being a big blow for New England heading into their matchup with Cleveland if neither he or Stevenson are able to suit up. Harris didn’t have much room to run in this game, but as I mentioned before he’s been the best back by far in this offense so far this season.

In the event that neither can go next week, you may want to keep Brandon Bolden in mind for waivers this week. I’ve poo-pooed him in the past as a special teamer who isn’t a playmaker, but he looked pretty darn good in this game. He had a 16 yard carry on 2nd and 25 where he broke a few tackles and fought for extra yardage.



He also caught a dime of a pass down the sideline from Mac Jones and was the only back still standing once Stevenson and Harris went down. Bolden has had some solid results the last few weeks and he’s definitely turned a believer out of me. He’s a smart player who knows when to take chances (and when not to), and most importantly he holds onto the ball. It may be worth stashing Brandon Bolden and/or J.J. Taylor in deeper leagues just in case they’re thrust into a bigger role next week.


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Hunter Henry: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 19 yards, TD

Kendrick Bourne: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 34 yards

Jakobi Meyers: 4 targets, 1 reception, 8 yards

Jonnu Smith: 2 targets, 1 reception, 4 yards | 1 carry, 4 yards


There’s not much to say for either New England’s or Carolina’s receiving corps from this game, but we’ll cover what we can. First off, N’Keal Harry was inactive for this game, though it wouldn’t have mattered much since he’s not a big part of this offense. Nelson Agholor was not targeted in this game despite running routes on 95% of dropbacks.



The top dog on that list, Jakobi Meyers, was pretty much nonexistent in this one. He was targeted in the end zone once but the ball was uncatchable. His touchdown drought continues for at least one more week. His most notable play came on New England’s first drive, on third and nine, where he should have converted the first down but bobbled the ball and the spot ended up being two yards short.




Hunter Henry scored his fifth touchdown in his last six games and is the number one target in the red zone for Mac Jones. While New England does try to come up with unique ways to get the ball in Jonnu Smith‘s hands, it’s clear that Henry is the only TE worth rostering in this offense. An injury to him would have a huge impact on New England’s playoff chances.



Carolina Panthers




Sam Darnold: 16/33, 172 yards, 3 INT, sack | 3 carries, 9 yards


This was bad. The tone was set early when Carolina’s starting center, Matt Paradis, injured his leg and didn’t return. Their starting left tackle, Cam Erving, was also injured in the first half and did not return, so Sam Darnold didn’t exactly have great protection in front of him. And it was an issue during this game.




Darnold was only sacked once on the day but he was seemingly under pressure for most of it. He didn’t play well in the first half, but he also didn’t make any mistakes. He was just inaccurate and he had a few passes batted away at the line. With Carolina unable to consistently move the ball on the ground or through the air, they only managed a measly three points.

It wasn’t until the second half that the wheels really fell off for Darnold. He made his first really bad mistake with a pick-six midway through the third quarter. Watch as he rolls out to his left and throws a wildly inaccurate, off-balance throw that sails right over the receiver’s hand.



It was a huge momentum shift in the game as Carolina was finally starting to move the ball on offense. On their very next drive, Jamie Collins jumped up out of nowhere to intercept another Darnold pass.




I wouldn’t totally put this on Darnold as it’s one heck of a play by Collins, but a pick is a pick. Finally, on their next drive, after getting Christian McCaffery involved in the passing game for the first time all day, Carolina’s offense finally showed some life. Darnold even hit D.J. Moore over the middle for a nice gain. It set up a red zone trip that resulted in Darnold’s third pick of the day, and this one was inexcusable.



This was just a terrible throw all around. Darnold knows better than to throw this ball, but for whatever reason, it’s almost like he’s seeing ghosts whenever he plays against New England. I wonder why?




Running Back


Christian McCaffery: 14 carries, 52 yards | 5 targets, 4 receptions, 54 yards

Chuba Hubbard: 3 carries, 3 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 33 yards

Ameer Abdullah: 1 carry | 5 targets, 4 receptions, 30 yards


I didn’t really understand what Carolina’s offensive game plan was today. One would think that adding Christian McCaffery back to a struggling offense would mean the offense would run through him, but that simply wasn’t the case. He had six carries and zero targets in the first half. It wasn’t until late in the third quarter that he received his first target, which subsequently went for a loss, of course.



Finally, as the third quarter turned into the fourth, McCaffery strung together receptions of 21, 19, and 17 yards before Darnold threw his third pick of the day. He would add one more short reception later in the game but otherwise, that was it. It really made no sense. The game was out of hand by this point, and while they eventually did the right thing to get the ball in McCaffery’s hands, it was too little too late. Carolina should have fed CMC early and often if they wanted to set the tone in this game. Maybe they’ll correct their mistake in their next game, but there should be plenty of criticism out there for how Joe Brady called this game on the offensive side of the ball.

Chuba Hubbard had a nice 33-yard catch and run, but was otherwise quiet on the day.



With McCaffery back, Hubbard should cede most of the carries to him. Ameer Abdullah was once again involved in the passing game, and once again he showed good burst with the ball in his hands. I doubt he’ll continue seeing this much action moving forward, but he’s looked good since he’s joined the Panthers.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


D.J. Moore: 7 targets, 3 receptions, 32 yards | 2 carries, 14 yards

Tommy Tremble: 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards

Willie Snead IV: 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards

Robby Anderson: 1 target

Terrace Marshall Jr.: 1 target

Ian Thomas: 2 targets, 1 reception, 9 yards


D.J. Moore took two carries out of the wildcat for fourteen yards on the ground. He also got crunched on a pass late in the game that resulted in an injury. He would return to the field and all signs point to him being fine, but it was a play that symbolized the beat-down the Patriots’ defense put on Sam Darnold, Moore, and the rest of the Panthers’ offense.





Robby Anderson‘s most notable moment didn’t take place on the field, as he was seen screaming at Darnold after the QB’s third interception of the game.



Not great, Bob.


Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)

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