Grading the Carolina Panthers for Sunday’s game at Detroit:
A Quarterback: Cam Newton posted back-to-back 300-yard passing games for the first time since the first two games of his career. This after a couple of Lions defenders said they wanted to make Newton beat them with his arm. Consider it done.
C- Running backs: There wasn’t much running room against a Detroit defense that stacked in the box to try to shut down Newton and Jonathan Stewart. Carolina had 28 rushes for 28 yards, although Christian McCaffrey caught a 6-yard TD for his first career score.
A Receivers: Devin Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin both caught TD passes, and Benjamin sealed the win with a clutch, 17-yard reception on third-and-9 in the game’s final minutes. But TE Ed Dickson upstaged them by getting behind the LBs for a career day.
B Offensive line: The line didn’t open many holes up front, although the numbers were stacked against it. Newton was sacked three times, but most of the game he had time to throw – including on his TD pass to Funchess.
B Defensive line: Kawann Short sacked Matthew Stafford twice, including a strip-sack that resulted in the Panthers’ first takeaway since Week 1. Mario Addison and Julius Peppers also added sacks for a group that rushed Stafford hard in the second half.
C Linebackers: It was that rare so-so day for the linebackers. Luke Kuechly had a team-high eight tackles, but missed a few others. Thomas Davis recovered Stafford’s fumble, but hasn’t been the same since his rib injury. And Shaq Thompson got beat on Darren Fells’ second TD catch.
C- Secondary: CB Daryl Worley had a pair of pass interference penalties and was benched briefly in the first half. Safety Colin Jones had five tackles starting in place of Kurt Coleman. At least the secondary limited the damage: Stafford’s longest completion was 25 yards.
B- Special teams: Graham Gano finally missed (from 55 yards) after starting the year 12-for-12. Michael Palardy had a 60-yard punt, and averaged 46.8 yards. Curtis Samuel taking a knee on a kickoff return was a head-scratcher.
B Coaching: Ron Rivera has done a good job keeping his team focused during a couple of distraction-filled weeks. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has to do a better job scheming with a late lead. But the Panthers are 4-1 and beginning to click on most cylinders.