Joseph Person grades the Carolina Panthers for Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
B- Quarterback: Cam Newton rushed for 54 yards (on a season-high 12 carries) and a score, and passed for 261 yards and another TD. But he took back-to-back sacks to take Carolina out of field goal range during the third quarter, and had a bad interception during the fourth that Eric Berry returned for a touchdown.
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F Running backs: Jonathan Stewart didn’t do much, carrying 13 times for 39 yards, with a long of 10. Stewart gave way at the end of the game to Fozzy Whittaker, who caught one pass for 9 yards. The Panthers finished with 99 rushing yards vs. a Kansas City defense that gave up 200 last week to Jacksonville.
C Receivers: Kelvin Benjamin pulled in seven catches for 84 yards, but his fumble during the final minute set up the Chiefs’ winning field goal. Tight end Greg Olsen added five catches, but had two drops. Devin Funchess had a 38-yard TD catch.
D Offensive line: Playing without Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil for a second consecutive week, the line again failed to get much movement in the running game. Right tackle Daryl Williams and right guard Trai Turner allowed the sacks that killed the Panthers’ 20-play, 10-minute drive.
B Defensive line: DT Kawann Short had a sack and a batted pass. Mario Addison notched another sack – his third in two games – and Charles Johnson and Vernon Butler combined for a sack on Alex Smith.
B- Linebackers: Thomas Davis made seven tackles, but his unnecessary roughness penalty helped the Chiefs get on the board before halftime. Luke Kuechly had eight stops. None of the linebackers made an impact in the blitz scheme.
B Secondary: Free safety Tre Boston had his first interception since 2014. Rookie corners James Bradberry and Daryl Worley started together for the second game in a row, and fared mostly well against a KC receiving corps missing Jeremy Maclin.
C Special teams: Kicker Graham Gano was the emergency fill-in for injured punter Andy Lee. Gano did OK under the circumstances. David Mayo’s block in the back was a killer, negating a nice punt return by Ted Ginn Jr. in the final minute.
D Coaching: Ron Rivera generally likes to play field-position football. At his 20 with 29 seconds left and out of timeouts, Rivera would have been better off bleeding out the clock and taking his chances in overtime. The Panthers fell to 1-4 in games decided by three points or fewer.