Christian McCaffrey's brilliance gives Panthers hope for 2020

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers, as proved by the firing of coach Ron Rivera, have been bad this season.

Despite his team's struggles, running back Christian McCaffrey has been something special. The third-year running back, during Sunday’s 30-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, became the first Carolina player to top 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a season.

With a little luck over the last two games, McCaffrey can become the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards receiving and rushing in the same season -- something only Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk have done.

McCaffrey will need 186 yards receiving against Indianapolis and New Orleans in the final two games to get there.

“That would mean a lot," McCaffrey said earlier in the week when asked about chasing the 1,000-1,000 club. “It would be a lot better if it was relevant and we were playing in the postseason.

“The 1,000-1,000 mark is an opportunity. I’ve been fortunate to get a lot of opportunities with the ball in my hands. ... At the end of the day, the most important thing in football is winning.”

The Panthers, who have lost six straight, haven’t won since beating the Tennessee Titans 30-20 on Nov. 3 to improve their record to 5-3.

The only constant since has been McCaffrey, who on Sunday had 87 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries to go with 88 yards receiving on eight catches.

While there are those who might suggest it’s time to shut McCaffrey down and save him to play for whomever owner David Tepper hires to replace Rivera, it’s really time to give McCaffrey enough opportunities to reach 1,000-1,000.

It’s not easy to get this close to the mark, as Craig told ESPN.com earlier this year when predicting it was in McCaffrey’s DNA to join his exclusive club.

That’s why the Panthers can’t afford to waste this opportunity in a season of wasted opportunities.

Biggest hole in the game plan: Not putting backup quarterback Will Grier into the lineup if Kyle Allen struggled. Allen was struggling at halftime, but he remained in the game to start the second half. At some point the staff needs to let its third-round pick play.

QB breakdown: Allen’s three interceptions against Seattle gave him four multiple-pick games in the past eight. Interim coach Perry Fewell says Allen gives Carolina its best chance to win, but the mistakes aren’t giving the Panthers a shot at all despite late-game heroics that made this one seem closer than it was.