Grading the Carolina Panthers for Sunday’s game against Arizona.
B Quarterback: Cam Newton played a solid game, then blasted NFL game officials for non-calls or hits he sees as late or illegal. Newton passed for 212 yards and ran for 43. While he didn’t account for a touchdown, he showed toughness. Calais Campbell’s low hit might have injured a weaker QB.
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B Running backs: Jonathan Stewart rushed 25 times for 95 tough yards and two short touchdowns. His fourth-quarter fumble gave the Cardinals late life, but it was another strong game for Stewart, who joined DeAngelo Williams as the only Panthers RBs with 6,000 yards.
B Receivers: Kelvin Benjamin had two catches for 73 yards, including a 50-yard catch-and-run on which he made a nice cut to get past Patrick Peterson. Ted Ginn Jr. caught five passes for 53 yards, including a couple of nifty grabs along the sideline. Devin Funchess added three receptions for 38.
B Offensive line: Newton dropped back 27 times and was sacked only once – and that was on a scramble on which he lost 4 yards. Backup center Gino Gradkowski had his most extensive playing time in place of Ryan Kalil, who left with a sprained right shoulder during the second quarter. The run blocking was on point, too.
A Defensive line: This group has received its share of lousy grades this season. Not Sunday. Star Lotulelei had a career-high three sacks, including a strip-sack that resulted in the Panthers’ first score. Kawann Short and Charles Johnson added sacks, and Kony Ealy’s interception of Carson Palmer sealed the victory.
B Linebackers: It took 12 years and playing through three ACL surgeries, but Thomas Davis finally found the end zone. Davis scooped and scored on Palmer’s fumble on the Cards’ first series, setting the tone for the Panthers’ defense. Luke Kuechly added six tackles, a sack and a pass breakup.
B Secondary: Nickel back Leonard Johnson introduced himself to Panthers fans with a sack and a pass breakup on a two-point try. He would have had another sack, but was called for unnecessary roughness. Rookie cornerback Daryl Worley led all tacklers with 11 stops and had his first career sack.
B Special teams: Graham Gano was 3-for-3 on field goals, connecting from 43, 52 and 21 yards. He also put six of his seven kickoffs in the end zone. Andy Lee had a net of 50.3 yards on three punts, and Joe Webb had a 37-yard kickoff return.
B Coaching: Offensive coordinator Mike Shula had a great scheme vs. the Cardinals’ pass rush, calling a series of quick-hitting passes that kept Newton clean in the pocket. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott went heavy with the blitz in the first half before pulling back with a big lead later in the game, a strategy that nearly bit him.