B+ QUARTERBACK: Cam Newton got back to what made him so dangerous as a rookie, making the right decisions on the zone read, escaping the rush and throwing daggers downfield, including a 66-yarder to Steve Smith. Only poor execution on a goal-line option pitch to fullback Mike Tolbert kept Newton from earning an A.
A RUNNING BACKS: A week after tying a franchise low with 10 rushing yards, the Panthers had 219 yards on the ground. Everyone was involved. DeAngelo Williams ran for 69 yards and a touchdown, Jonathan Stewart came back from an ankle injury for 51 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown, and Tolbert bulled into the end zone for a 2-yard score.
B RECEIVERS: Brandon LaFell looked like the complementary receiver the Panthers have long sought. LaFell was targeted eight times and caught six passes for 90 yards. Smith had 104 receiving yards on just three catches, despite aggravating a knee injury. Smith made several nice blocks, as well. Tight end Greg Olsen was not a factor.
B OFFENSIVE LINE: Left tackle Jordan Gross called the line's performance against Tampa Bay terrible. But it was much-improved Sunday. Rookie guard Amini Silatolu bounced back from a poor debut, and the Panthers controlled the line of scrimmage.
B+ DEFENSIVE LINE: The Panthers rotated linemen to stay fresh against Brees, and it paid off. Although they only sacked Brees once, the Panthers harrassed him much of the day. DE Charles Johnson had a strip that Brees recovered, and rookie DE Frank Alexander knocked down another pass. DE Greg Hardy had a gutty performance after battling an illness all week.
C LINEBACKERS: Jon Beason had early issues in coverage against Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. But he was in the right spot at the end of the game, cheating to Graham's side to pick off Brees in the final minute. James Anderson had nine tackles. Rookie Luke Kuechly has yet to make the type of game-changing play he turned in during the preseason.
B DEFENSIVE BACKS: Rookie Josh Norman, who has taken over the No. 2 cornerback spot from Captain Munnerlyn, held his own against the Saints' seasoned receivers. Chris Gamble had a big pass breakup on what would have been a fourth-quarter touchdown to Graham, while strong safety Charles Godfrey's pick-six was a huge momentum swing.
B SPECIAL TEAMS: A solid showing and no major lapses by the special teams. The Saints' average starting field position was their 21. Colin Jones, acquired in a trade from Oakland before Week 1, has been a big upgrade on the coverage teams. It also helps that Davis is pitching in here.
B COACHING: Rob Chudzinski had a strange call with an option on fourth-and-inches, and Ron Rivera probably should have challenged the spot that led to the fourth-and-short. But Chudzinski had the Saints on their heels by mixing the zone read and downfield passing attack, while defensive coordinator Sean McDermott got the takeaways he's been looking for.