You could be forgiven for not seeing Curtis Samuel's touchdown this past Sunday due to the more publicized 63-yard game-winning field goal by Graham Gano. You could also be forgiven for not knowing the name Curtis Samuel prior to Week 5. The Panthers' 2017 draft pick missed a good chunk of his rookie season due to a nasty ankle injury, and an irregular heartbeat has kept him out of action the first four weeks of the 2018 campaign. But after his electrifying week 5 touchdown, Samuel is likely to be on a lot of people's mind, whether as a flex option for fantasy owners or in the nightmares of defenders in the NFC South and around the league.
On Sunday, Samuel made his 2018 debut and made up for lost time in a flash on a first quarter play that exhibited his instinctive big play ability. Down 3-0, the Panthers offense quickly marched to the Giants' 25. On 1st and 1, Carolina lined up in Trips Left, featuring three receivers, on of which was Samuel. From Trips, fellow receiver DJ Moore motioned to the right, dragging a defensive back with him and opening up space near the line of scrimmage for Samuel to operate.
Moore’s jet sweep motion to the right forced the Giants' defense to shift for a nanosecond in case Newton pitched it to him. Newton faked a handoff to RB Christian McCaffrey, stepped back, then whipped a screen pass out to Samuel, catching the ball on the move at the 24 yard line.
Samuel then dipped around a Devin Funchess block, veered downfield and was suddenly off to the races amid a convoy of blockers and pursuing defenders. Just when it seemed like Giants' defenders were closing in on Samuel from every corner, he spun his way out of a wrap-up tackle, sending the 254-pound LB Alec Ogletree flying, then found his bearings and bounced it outside.
Approaching the 5-yard line, Samuel spotted more resistance and, with no room to escape, he did the only thing he could do: lowered his shoulder and rammed into a wall of gang tacklers. Three defenders hung on until he ripped away, dragged them towards the sideline, peeled all three off and waltzed over the goal-line. In total, Samuel escaped six tackles between the line of scrimmage and the end zone. Or, as Sports Illustrated put it...
What should have been no more than a 10-yard gain was stretched into a highlight reel 25-yard touchdown. The Panthers' offensive play callers deserve a boatload of credit as well. Rivera set up the play several snaps earlier, when a jet sweep served as the decoy for a pitch to Christian McCaffrey who handed it off to Moore on a reverse.
Moore cut upfield behind the left guard, rumbled for 18 yards, and with that trick play fresh on New York's mind, Carolina put Samuel in position to succeed. The shiftiness, horsepower, and strength displayed by Samuel is a warning to the NFL about the caliber of playmakers surrounding Newton. If Samuel is going to will himself past defenders and pulls off playmaking alchemy of the Houdini variety on a regular basis, Carolina will be a force to be reckoned with. The scary part is, he's just getting started. After the game, Rivera noted that we haven't even seen Samuel at full strength yet.
"He got winded a couple times. You could see it. He hadn't been able to do anything for three weeks or four weeks or however long it was."
Because this is a play that has to be seen to be believed, the Panthers covered it from every angle -- literally. We doubt this is the last Samuel TD to get this treatment. Former Ohio State teammate Ezekiel Elliott also showed Samuel some love:
Not sure if Zeke would approve of Samuel's celebration though...
*Out-of-market games only. Select int'l games excluded.
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