Joseph Person grades the Carolina Panthers for Monday’s game at Washington.
A Quarterback: Where has this version of Cam Newton been for the past month? Playing with a sore shoulder, Newton completed 21 of 37 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. Newton had gone four games in a row without completing 50 percent of his throws. But he was on point Monday.
A Running backs: Jonathan Stewart was a workhorse, rushing 25 times for 132 yards, the fifth-highest total of his career. Mike Tolbert also had one of his best games of the season, catching a 1-yard TD pass and picking up 10 yards on a late carry.
B- Receivers: Ted Ginn Jr. caught a 30-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter on a coverage breakdown, but had a couple of drops. Josh Norman blanketed Kelvin Benjamin for much of the game and made him a non-factor (again). Philly Brown did a nice job working the middle of the field. Greg Olsen had six catches for 85 yards.
B Offensive line: The line’s taken its lumps this season. But the group was stout against Washington, playing a physical game to open holes for Stewart and keep Newton pretty well protected.
B Defensive line: The Panthers had only one sack vs. Kirk Cousins, but it was a big one – Wes Horton’s strip-sack on the first play of the second half. The front four helped hold Washington to 29 rushing yards – after limiting Jay Gruden’s team to 14 rushing yards in 2015.
B Linebackers: The Panthers played without Luke Kuechly, who was held out despite being cleared from the concussion protocol. A.J. Klein missed a tackle on Washington’s only touchdown drive. Thomas Davis made eight tackles, but one drew a flag because it came out of bounds.
B Secondary: Safety Kurt Coleman made a great read on a throw down the middle to Vernon Davis for his fourth interception this season. Coleman finished with a team-high nine tackles, but missed one on a third-down pass to DeSean Jackson to set up Washington’s lone TD. Daryl Worley and James Bradberry were solid.
B- Special teams: Graham Gano was 4-for-5 on field goals vs. his former team, missing from 41 yards. Michael Palardy had a net of only 32.3 yards on six punts. Ginn had one of his better return games, with an average of 11.8 yards on five punt runbacks.
B Coaching: Offensive coordinator Mike Shula used a bunched formation to create confusion in the Washington secondary on Ginn’s touchdown catch. Give Ron Rivera credit: His teams come to play in December, even when they’re essentially out of the playoff chase.