Football

The Panthers haven’t won a home game in 11 months. Can that change vs. the Jaguars?

It has been 11 months since the Carolina Panthers won a home game.

That’s a startling fact, but it’s true. The Panthers have had some incredible success at Bank of America Stadium under coach Ron Rivera. They once won 14 games in a row from 2014-16, and not long afterward they started another streak that had reached 10 games by Nov. 4, 2018.

That afternoon, the Panthers blew by Tampa Bay, 42-28, to push their record to 6-2. Ever since then, the Panthers have made like author Thomas Wolfe and acted like they can’t go home again — at least not without burning dinner and setting off the fire alarms.

The Panthers are 0-5 in Charlotte since that day. Backup quarterback Kyle Allen has gone 3-0 overall as a starter in place of Cam Newton, who will sit out again Sunday with a foot injury. But all of those wins have been on the road — one last year, two this year. And so Allen is as anxious as anyone to get rid of the Panthers’ embarrassing home loss streak, which included Newton getting booed by fans during Carolina’s no-touchdown loss to Tampa Bay on Sept. 12 in their last home appearance.

“I’m excited, man,” Allen said. “I’m really excited to play in front of the fans in a regular-season game, in a game that really matters. ... When I played at (Texas) A&M, we had 110,000 people at some of our games, and it’s cool when you score a touchdown and you can feel like the whole city is roaring for you.”

Gerald McCoy, the Panthers’ defensive tackle, said before the season that the best formula to guarantee success in the NFL was to win all of your home games and half of them on the road. The Panthers haven’t followed that pattern, going 0-2 at home and 2-0 on the road.

Said McCoy: “You’ve got to steal a couple more on the road now. The destination doesn’t change just because you make a pit stop. But from here on out, we’ve got to do our best to defend the house.”

Unhappy Panthers fans 2019
Carolina Panthers fans haven’t been very happy wiith their team so far this season. Carolina opened the year with consecutive losses to the L.A. Rams and Tampa Bay in Charlotte. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The Panthers obviously don’t want to lose on the day that four of the team’s legends are inducted into the Hall of Honor. But a win Sunday also would mean that Rivera would surpass Panthers coach John Fox for total regular-season wins as Carolina’s coach — the two men are tied at 73 apiece. In a league where close to a quarter of NFL head coaches are fired almost every year, Rivera’s longevity is nothing to be sneezed at. He’s a survivor — nearly fired after his second season as the Panthers’ head coach, now in his ninth and needing to win again to keep the job for a 10th season. Still, the all-time wins record will soon be his one way or the other, and that one will be very difficult to break.

For so rarely playing each other, Carolina and Jacksonville have a lot of shared history. Both teams joined the NFL together, playing their first games in 1995 — and opening against each other that year in a preseason Hall of Fame game. The Panthers have also beaten Jacksonville in their season opener during both years they went to the Super Bowl (2003 and 2015), and Newton got his first-ever NFL win against the Jaguars in 2011. The Jaguars also now employ Carolina’s first coach ever, Dom Capers, as a defensive assistant.

The two teams’ oldest players should have an impact Sunday. Carolina’s elder is tight end Greg Olsen, who is 34. Jacksonville’s oldest player is 6-foot-8 defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who, at age 33, is still a huge force in the pass rush and will be difficult for Carolina to contain Sunday with a patchwork line.

Like Carolina, the Jaguars are celebrating their own Silver Season. In voting by the media earlier this year, left tackle Tony Boselli was named as Jacksonville’s best player ever, with running back Fred Taylor second and wide receiver Jimmy Smith third.

The Gardner Minshew-Kyle Allen battle at quarterback will draw the most eyeballs Sunday, but I bet the game’s winner will depend more on whether Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette or Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey has a more productive day. It’s hard to bet against McCaffrey the way he’s playing — although I did so last week when Carolina played at Houston and misfired by picking a Houston win, dropping my record to 2-2 picking Panthers’ games.

This week I think Carolina finally gets rid of the homefield disadvantage. My pick: Carolina 17, Jacksonville 13.

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