EditorsNote: Adds Christian McCaffrey’s day; other edits for clarity
Nyheim Hines scored two touchdowns on punt returns as the Indianapolis Colts hammered the visiting Carolina Panthers, 38-6, on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis.
Hines returned a first-quarter punt 84 yards for a score as the Colts built a 14-0 lead. In the fourth quarter, he ran back a punt 71 yards for the game’s second-to-last touchdown. No Carolina player came close to touching Hines for the final 55 yards of that return.
Indy quarterback Jacoby Brissett opened the scoring with a 1-yard run as the Colts (7-8) snapped a four-game losing streak. They were playing their first game since being eliminated from playoff contention.
It was the NFL debut for Carolina rookie quarterback Will Grier, who earned the start in place of the benched Kyle Allen. Grier threw for 224 yards, completing 27 of 44 passes while tossing three interceptions.
Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey caught a franchise-record 15 passes in the loss, breaking the single-season record for most receptions by a running back that he set last season. He led the Panthers with 119 receiving yards and added 54 rushing yards on 13 carries.
The Panthers (5-10) have lost seven games in a row and finish the regular season next week against NFC South champion New Orleans at home.
Carolina dropped to 0-3 under interim coach Perry Fewell, who moved into the role when Ron Rivera was fired. Unlike a week earlier against Seattle, the Panthers failed to threaten with a second-half comeback.
Hines and Brissett are likely familiar to many Panthers fans because they played for North Carolina State.
Brissett completed 14 of 27 passes for 119 yards without an interception. He was sacked three times.
Marlon Mack’s 2-yard touchdown run pushed the Colts’ halftime lead to 21-3. Jordan Wilkins scored on a 1-yard run for the game’s last touchdown.
Mack finished with 95 rushing yards on 16 carries, and Wilkins gained 84 yards on nine attempts.
The Panthers scored on Joey Slye field goals of 27 yards in the second quarter and 50 yards in the third quarter.
Carolina lost defensive end Vernon Butler to an ejection in the third quarter after he threw a punch at Colts tight end Jack Doyle.
Carolina, which had defeated the other three AFC South teams, was denied a sweep of the division.
—Field Level Media