Joseph Person grades the Carolina Panthers for Saturday’s game vs. Atlanta:
F Quarterback: Cam Newton looked nothing like he did five days earlier at Washington. He locked in on tight end Ed Dickson on the first of his two first-half interceptions. He was repeatedly high on his throws and (again) seemed uncomfortable in the pocket. Coach Ron Rivera said Newton’s shoulder injury is “probably” affecting him.
B Running backs: After rushing for 132 yards Monday at Washington, Jonathan Stewart found little running room early against Atlanta. Stewart had a 20-yard gain, but his other five first-half rushes netted only 2 yards. He ended up averaging 4.5 yards a carry. Fozzy Whittaker added 30 yards on three carries.
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B Receivers: Greg Olsen, who gutted it out with an elbow injury, became the first tight end in NFL history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Kelvin Benjamin finally showed up, catching four passes for 63 yards and a touchdown while playing with an energy that has mostly been missing this year.
C Offensive line: The line failed to get the movement it did at Washington and didn’t do a great job protecting Newton, although left tackle Mike Remmers looked solid. Right tackle Daryl Williams returned after missing three games with a high ankle sprain.
B Defensive line: Mario Addison played with the passion he has all season. Addison, who will be a free agent in March, had a sack and two tackles for loss. Rookie Vernon Butler blocked his second kick this season. Kawann Short and Kony Ealy each had sacks.
C Linebackers: Thomas Davis had a rough day in coverage, giving up a touchdown catch to tight end Joshua Perkins and a 31-yard completion to RB Tevin Coleman to convert a third-and-21. Shaq Thompson played well, finishing with 11 tackles, including 10 solo stops.
C Secondary: James Bradberry did a good job on Julio Jones, who caught four passes for 60 yards – or 240 fewer than his Week 4 total. Kurt Coleman sacked Matt Ryan on a blitz. Tre Boston had a tough afternoon, injuring his knee and letting up on Coleman’s 55-yard touchdown run.
B Special teams: Graham Gano made all three of his field goal attempts. Michael Palardy averaged 43.3 yards per punt and Whittaker had his best day this season on kick returns, averaging 42 yards on two runbacks.
D Coaching: Rivera usually has his guys ready to play in December. That wasn’t the case Saturday. There was a lack of focus from the start. Exhibit A: The Panthers burned a timeout before a third-and-1 early in the second half when they only had 10 men on the field.