The Carolina Panthers running back blasted off again Sunday, gobbling up 176 rushing yards and two TDs on just 19 carries (9.3 YPC) in a 34-27 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also added six receptions for 61 yards and one receiving TD. The 237 scrimmage yards tied his own franchise record.
McCaffrey has carried the Panthers' offense with Cam Newton out, allowing quarterback Kyle Allen room for the ups-and-downs that come with being a young signal-caller while stockpiling three straight victories. CMC's 866 yards from scrimmage to open the season is the second-most in NFL history since 1950, behind only Jim Brown's 988 in 1963, per NFL Research.
"No, you guys just keep pulling out the thesaurus," coach Ron Rivera said when asked if there were any new words to explain McCaffrey. "There's a whole bunch of words you can use to describe the way he plays. The amount of energy he plays with -- that first drive and the way he finished that first drive was spectacular."
The dual-threat back became the fourth player in the Super Bowl Era to have five or more games with 1-plus rush TD and 1-plus receiving TD in his first three seasons, joining Alvin Kamara (6), Edgerrin James (6) and Chuck Foreman (8).
"If I was writing, I would see if he's from earth," defensive lineman Gerald McCoy said, via the team's official website. "I'd have to check to see if he's from Asgard or something. I don't know where that dude's from. If the season ended right now, he's the MVP."
A gunslinger from Kansas City would likely get the most votes for MVP after five weeks, but CMC could certainly make his case if he continues to carry the Panthers to wins.
The last non-QB to win the NFL MVP award was Adrian Peterson in 2012, his 2,097-yard rushing season. The record-holder for yards from scrimmage, Chris Johnson (2,509 yards), didn't even win the award in 2009, underscoring the difficulty for RBs to overcome the position value. CMC is on pace for 2,771 scrimmage yards, which would smash Johnson's record.
McCaffrey (587 rush yds and 279 receiving yards) joined Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas (1991) as the only players in NFL history to record at least 500 rush yards and 250 rec yards in their team's first five games of a season.
"Do you see what he's doing? It's ridiculous. He's not human," rookie Brian Burns said. "He's probably like Thor's long-lost brother or something like that. The man's not human. I've never seen somebody jump over a person and make that person hit the other person. I've never seen that ever before in my life."
McCoy faced McCaffrey the past two seasons as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now that the defensive tackle switched jerseys, he sees a different RB.
"You always knew he had elite speed, and he was elusive, but now he's kind of figured it out," McCoy said. "Guys like that, I always say, he's not a running back, he's a weapon. He can do everything. There was even one time where he was about to throw a pass, I was like, 'All right, c'mon, now.' He threw a pass, he rushed his butt off, caught the ball. That one where he dropped it, I thought he was going to make the one-handed catch. I was like, 'If he do that, enough is enough.' He's just great. I'm glad he's on my side."
McCaffrey doesn't just have the eye-popping numbers. He has some of the most explosive, ridiculous highlights of the season, juking defenders in space, and blazing past defensive backs like he's the Road Runner. Winning the MVP might take a lot of things to fall right for CMC, but the Panthers will gladly just let him keep carrying them to wins in the meantime.