Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner has discovered some revolutionary ways to utilize his panoply of playmakers. Curtis Samuel, no stranger to this series, is a phenomenal slot receiver with a penchant for manifesting big plays out of thin air. Samuel’s vision in conjunction with Turner’s play designs makes for a devastating combination.
In Week 5, Samuel bullied his way into the endzone for a jaw-dropping 63-yard run. Although his brilliant Week 9 run wasn’t as much of a difference maker as Michael Thomas’s game-clinching 72-yard touchdown or Julio Jones snapping his 12-game touchdown drought, he continued assembling his growing catalog of eye-popping touchdowns.
Early in the second quarter, Carolina was situated on Tampa Bay's 33-yard-line. Samuel lined up in the slot on the right side of the field, and at the snap took a few faint steps forward before twisting to his left and sprinting towards the backfield as Cam Newton faked a handoff to Christian McCaffrey before pitching it backward to D.J. Moore who was reversing field. Moore then cut to the right before handing it off to Samuel on the double reverse at the 45, 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage. From there, Samuel turned upfield on the boundary side and found wide-open space occupied by blockers ahead of him.
Samuel ran into a scrum near the 20-yard-line and immediately cut back to the right, dodged a tackle at the 15-yard-line and split two Buccaneer tacklers at the 15 with a swift cutback move.
Defensive tackle Beau Allen came rumbling downfield in an effort to take Samuel down from behind, but the eyes in the back of Samuel’s head allowed him to avoid Allen and left him grasping at nothing but air. Samuel ended his run in the corner of the end zone.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s porous defense was liquified so badly that cornerback Thomas Davis and Brent Grimes nearly collided trying to decipher which direction the play was headed.
Samuel’s 33-yard run put Carolina up 21-7, but the yardage gained was only a fraction of the 103 yards he actually covered. When you factor in the total yardage he compiled going east-west, it was the longest run of the season for any runner.
After the catch, Samuel has proven himself to be an omnipotent runner who can identify lanes and make the correct decisions amid chaos. Samuel was only on the field for 17 snaps but made his presence felt with two touchdowns, the aforementioned run through a labyrinth of defenders, and another he earned by winning a jump-ball in the end zone for a crucial fourth-quarter TD.
Currently, Samuel is a collector card in Norv Turner's deck, being preserved in plastic, other than when Turner wants to show him off. However, if he continues throttling defenses on these deep scoring plays with such regularity, he could morph into a high-usage threat for a surging Panthers squad.
*Out-of-market games only. Select int'l games excluded.
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