Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin isn’t interested in a slow comeback from injury. Evidence of this fact can be seen already in his receiver rankings for the first two weeks of the 2016 season. Benjamin is tied for 7th in receptions (13), is 8th in yards (199), and ranks first in touchdowns (3). Benjamin’s return to the team doesn’t just give the Panthers a potent weapon in the passing game, but also adds another player who can take over a game and change the momentum. We saw this happen against the 49ers on Sunday.
On a crucial 3rd and 10, with the Panthers up only by a single score, Kelvin crossed over the middle and made two San Francisco defenders look helpless as he cradled the ball for a first down. This is as clutch of a play from a quarterback to a receiver as you will see in the NFL.
Kelvin’s helmet came off in the process, but he was quick to explain why. “I didn’t really pull it off, actually, I mean he kind of hit it. It was already about to come off, so, I just finished it.” Benjamin said after the game. He then gave a sly laugh, indicating he knew exactly what he was doing and what effect it would have on the crowd.
If you watch the replay carefully, you do see that Kelvin’s hands never touch his helmet. It was his quick “head bob” that popped it off. I suspect this is why the removal of the helmet did not draw a flag, luckily.
If you are thinking this was a play that sparked energy into the Carolina Panthers offense and allowed them to pull away from the 49ers, Kelvin agrees with you. “I think that really sealed the game. Get our energy back up, get the fans hyped” Benjamin said after the game. This type of “game changing” play is what separates a good receiver from a great one. If Benjamin can consistently make these types of plays, his name will eventually get mentioned along with Steve Smith as all-time Panthers great receivers.
The Carolina Panthers went on to systematically dismantle the San Francisco 49ers 46 – 27, beating the ridiculous 13.5 point Vegas spread in the process, despite defensive lapses allowing quick scores. The Carolina Panthers saw defensive meltdowns last season as well. In many cases, the Panthers were forced to win close games as a result. But that was 2015, without KB.
Now, with the game changing Kelvin Benjamin back in the lineup, perhaps the Panthers offense can truly take over games when needed.
Don’t miss my TOP TEN GAME PHOTOS from the Panthers victory.