Matt Rhule in play-tipping controversy after Giants loss

Did the Panthers tip their offensive plays, allowing the Giants’ defense to hold them to 16 points in Sunday’s 19-16 win for Brian Daboll’s crew?

No, said Carolina head coach Matt Rhule, who instead of pointing to the 16 points highlighted the 146 yards the Panthers picked up on the ground.

ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky leveled the play-tipping allegation Thursday in a clip that has gone viral. On “NFL Live,” Orlovsky showed several instances in which Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey’s position in relation to QB Baker Mayfield, who was in a shotgun formation, may have telegraphed the play to the Giants’ defense.

When McCaffrey was lined up a yard behind Mayfield, Orlovsky argued, the Panthers would either run the ball or run a run-pass option. If McCaffrey was alongside Mayfield, Orlovsky argued, the Panthers would throw the ball.

Matt Rhule leaves the field after the Panthers’ loss to the Giants.
Getty Images

“Candidly, it’s coaching malpractice,” Orlovsky said. “That is unacceptable in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers coaching staff.”

The clip caught the attention of the Panthers coaching staff, which disagreed.

“If you’re saying that they knew whether we were running or passing, I would say, well, how come we ran for 146 yards and 6.3 yards per carry?” Rhule told reporters Friday, after McCaffrey accumulated 102 of those yards.

Rhule cited the Panthers’ biggest pass play of the game. In the third quarter, McCaffrey lined up a yard behind Mayfield, who was in the shotgun — a formation from which Orlovsky would assume a run or RPO would follow — and the Panthers ran a play-action. D.J. Moore caught a 29-yard pass from Mayfield.

The Giants sack Baker Mayfield
The Giants sack Baker Mayfield
Robert Sabo

Perhaps the Panthers have been giving away their plays, or perhaps their offense has just not been good enough through an 0-2 start.