Reporter Joseph Person grades the Carolina Panthers performance against Seattle:
B QUARTERBACK : Cam Newton threw for a career-low 125 yards, but that was a byproduct of either Seattles deep zones, Mike Shulas unwillingness to take shots downfield, or both. Either way, Newton did not force throws into coverage and took what the Seahawks gave him.
C+ RUNNING BACKS : DeAngelo Williams ran hard, up to and including the 16-yard, fourth-quarter rush on which he fumbled. With Jonathan Stewart on the PUP list and no proven backup, Williams ran 16 times for 76 yards. Fullback Mike Tolbert was a non-factor with four carries and 10 yards.
I RECEIVERS : This group gets an incomplete because it was Steve Smith (eight targets) and tight end Greg Olsen (10 targets) in the passing attack, and not much else. No. 2 wideout Brandon LaFell was targeted once on an incompletion that didnt count because of a holding call on Chris Scott. Ted Ginn Jr. caught the only pass thrown to him, for 10 yards.
B OFFENSIVE LINE : Despite playing without injured left guard Amini Silatolu and losing right guard Garry Williams to a knee injury in the first half, the line held its own. With Chris Scott, Travelle Wharton and Jeff Byers alternating at the guard spots, Newton was sacked only once after going down four times against Seattle last season.
A DEFENSIVE LINE : The Panthers sacked Russell Wilson twice, but they hurried him and flushed him from the pocket throughout the game. Defensive Charles Johnson had a strip-sack of Wilson after the Seahawks had driven inside the red zone in the final minute of the first half. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei had four solo tackles in his NFL debut.
B- LINEBACKERS : Veteran linebacker Jon Beason seemed to slow as the game wore on and, according to Ron Rivera, took a couple of bad pursuit angles in his first game since Week 4 last season. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis both were solid with nine tackles apiece.
C DEFENSIVE BACKS : Josh Thomas was tough against the run (five solo tackles), but was beaten deep on consecutive plays in the fourth quarter. The second one Jermaine Kearses 43-yard touchdown catch turned out to be the game-winner. Free safety Charles Godfrey (13 tackles, a sack and a pressure) was all over the field, but strong safety Quintin Mikell cramped up in the fourth quarter.
C SPECIAL TEAMS : Punter Brad Nortman averaged 47.8 yards per punt, and put two of them inside the 20. Returner Ted Ginn Jr. and kicker Graham Gano didnt get to do much. And Thomas had a big miscue when he let a Seattle punt hit him in the leg for a fumble the Seahawks recovered.
C COACHING : As promised, new coordinator Shula stuck to a more traditional rushing attack, which was effective. Shula mixed in a few read-option plays, but didnt have Newton throwing downfield much. The decision to play Thomas over Josh Norman came back to bite the Panthers, who still havent figured out how to win close games down the stretch.
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