Grading the Carolina Panthers for Monday’s game vs. Miami:
A Quarterback: It would be tough for Cam Newton to be much better than he was vs. the Dolphins. Four touchdown passes. A 120.4 QB rating. A 69-yard run that was the second-longest of his career. And a swagger and confidence that is contagious. Newton said last week he’s starting to get a special feeling about this season, then he went out and played that way.
A Running backs: Jonathan Stewart had a burst that’s been missing the past few weeks. He took advantage of great blocking to rush for 110 yards – his first 100-yard game of the season. Christian McCaffrey had two touchdowns – one rushing and one receiving – while Cameron Artis-Payne added 68 yards and a TD on seven carries.
B Receivers: The receiving corps overcame several drops – including two by Russell Shepard – to combine for a big game. Receivers were creating separation and making plays. Devin Funchess led the way with 92 yards and two TDs on five catches, while TE Ed Dickson also scored on a nifty grab on a high pass near the end of the first half.
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A Offensive line: Center Tyler Larsen said it was “a collective effort” after the Panthers ran for 200 yards in two consecutive games for the first time in team history. Carolina had a shot at a franchise rushing record before backup QB Derek Anderson had two kneel-downs to end the game. Newton was not sacked vs. Miami, and has been sacked just once during the three-game win streak.
B- Defensive line: Defensive tackle Kawann Short had a team-high seven tackles and was a handful for the Dolphins’ interior linemen. Charles Johnson had a pass breakup. But the front never sacked Jay Cutler, who was hit only once. The D-line had a bad run fit to allow Kenyan Drake to break free for a 66-yard TD run.
A Linebackers: Luke Kuechly sniffed out a sideline pass to TE Julian Thomas, making an interception that completely swung momentum before the end of the first half. Kuechly finished with six tackles, and Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson each had three stops.
B Secondary: The defensive backs limited the Dolphins’ passing attack and did not allow a reception longer than 24 yards. CB James Bradberry gave up a short touchdown pass to Thomas and also had four solo tackles and a pass breakup. Safety Mike Adams added four tackles and a PBU, while nickel back Captain Munnerlyn had three stops and a PBU.
B Special teams: Graham Gano started the scoring with a 40-yard field goal, and still has only missed two kicks (one FG, one PAT) all season. Michael Palardy averaged 42.5 on two punts, one of which bounced into the end zone. The kick return team was solid.
A Coaching: Ron Rivera kept his team’s focus through a two-game slide in October and a few off-field distractions. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula did a nice job getting the ball to Stewart on the edge quickly on several burst plays. The Panthers head into the bye week with a ton of momentum.