Panthers’ McCaffrey sets NFL mark, beats dad

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers may be having a down season, but Christian McCaffrey is having a record-breaking one.

The eighth pick of the 2017 draft on Sunday broke the NFL’s single-season receiving record for a running back in Carolina’s NFC South game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Matt Forte had 102 catches in 2014 for the Chicago Bears. McCaffrey topped that in the third quarter with his ninth catch of the game.

McCaffrey also became the third back in NFL history to surpass 100 catches and 1,000 yards rushing in a single season. LaDainian Tomlinson and Forte were the other two.

And McCaffrey has bragging rights at home as well. He has more catches in a season than his wide receiver father Ed ever had. Ed McCaffrey’s career-best was 101 in 2000 with the Broncos.

Tomlinson recently credited offensive coordinator Norv Turner for Christian McCaffrey’s explosion.

“Christian’s dexterity that he possess is really incredible,” Tomlinson, who played much of his career at San Diego under Turner as a coordinator and head coach, told ESPN.com. “It’s the perfect match with someone like Norv, who knows how to use that skill set.

“He’s a unique athlete in itself, but the way he excels is basically getting the ball into his hands in space, of letting him create certain runs, not necessarily forcing him to go downhill and try to use him inside the whole game.”

McCaffrey’s record-breaking catch also tied for the franchise single-season receiving record that Steve Smith set in 2005.

McCaffrey topped 1,000-yards rushing in the first half with 52 yards on 15 carries. He had 22 touches in the first half, catching all seven of his receiving targets.

His effort came with starting quarterback Cam Newton inactive with a sore right shoulder. Backup Taylor Heinicke got the start, but left for a short time with an elbow injury before returning late in the second quarter.

McCaffrey was snubbed from the Pro Bowl, but he has a good chance to make the annual game as the second alternate. The top three backs were Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys), Todd Gurley (Rams) and Saquon Barkely (Giants).

This has been a breakout year for McCaffrey in terms of being an all-purpose back. He led the Panthers with 80 catches last season, but was limited to 435 yards rushing as he shared the backfield with Jonathan Stewart.

McCaffrey entered Sundays game having taken 97.65 percent of the offensive snaps, by far the most by a back in the NFL this season.

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