In the post-game giddiness that followed the Carolina Panthers’46-27 victory against the San Francisco 49ers, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin got more than a little carried away.
“That could have been 60, maybe 70-something points on the board Benjamin said.
Sixty or 70 points? That’s absurd. It happens fairly often in college, but rarely in the NFL. In the last 20 years, including regular season and playoffs, only the 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars and 2011 New Orleans Saints have scored more than 60 points. Forty-six points is usually more than enough for a win.
But Benjamin’s claim came with a caveat. He said the 60 or 70 points can only come if the Panthers don’t turn the ball over. They had four turnovers Sunday and still scored a bunch of points. Maybe, just maybe, Benjamin has a point. Erase those turnovers and Carolina would have had a solid chance at 60 or more points.
“But you’ve got to be mistake-free,’’ Benjamin said.
The Panthers led the league in scoring last year at 31.3 points per game. There is every reason to believe this year’s offense is better. Quarterback Cam Newton, last season’s Most Valuable Player, is a year older and a year wiser. Plus, Newton has Benjamin back after the wide receiver missed all of last year with a knee injury. Benjamin makes the offense complete.
Everywhere you look on offense, there is talent. Newton and Benjamin are among the best in the league at their positions. The same can be said for running back Jonathan Stewart, tight end Greg Olsen and center Ryan Kalil. The Panthers easily have the best offense in franchise history. Stewart left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury, but this offense isn’t built around one man, with the exception of Newton.
If Stewart misses a few games, the Panthers are designed to get by without him. On Sunday, Fozzy Whittaker, a third-down back, rushed for 100 yards and the Panthers also have Cameron Artis-Payne, who they are high on.
The Panthers may have the most balanced offense in the league. You want proof? Benjamin had 108 yards and two touchdowns and tight end Greg Olsen had five catches for 122 yards. Newton passed for 353 yards and the Panthers finished with 529 yards, the third best total in franchise history.
Speaking of franchise history, the Panthers made some against the 49ers. For the first time in franchise history, the Panthers had 100-yard receiving games by two players, 100 yards rushing by a running back and 300 yards passing by a quarterback.
The Panthers have an uncommon balance of talent on offense.
“You can’t look at our offense and say, ‘We’re going to stop Kelvin. We’re going to stop Greg,’” wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl said. “We have other guys that can stretch the field and make plays.’’
That may sound surprising when you consider that Mike Shula is the offensive coordinator. In previous stops as Tampa Bay’s coordinator and as the University of Alabama’s head coach, Shula was considered too conservative in his play calling.
But nobody is saying that these days. Instead, Shula is being mentioned as one of the best offensive coordinators in the league. I’ve always thought Shula was a good coach but he didn’t have much talent at Tampa Bay or Alabama. In Carolina, he has an abundance of talent and things are working out quite nicely.
A 60-point game is not out of the question. Maybe even a 70-point outburst.
“We’ve got to go back and get cleaned up, get detailed on things,’’ left tackle Michael Oher said. “We can be a lot better. If we do that, who knows what can happen?’’