Grading the Carolina Panthers for Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
B+ Quarterback: Cam Newton played a great game under what were at times some pretty poor circumstances. He was 32 for 45 with three touchdowns and an interception, on a pass that bounced off running back C.J. Anderson into the arms of Ricardo Allen.
Newton put together a scoring drive after taking a cheap helmet-to-helmet shot from Damontae Kazee in the second quarter. He also had a slick third-quarter drive that began a Panthers comeback attempt.
Newton now has a 69.0 completion percentage through two games.
C- Running backs: Newton was once again the Panthers’ leading rusher with five carries for 42 yards, with Christian McCaffrey utilized largely as a receiver.
C- Receivers: There were a few bright spots at receiver on Sunday night, but a lot of mistakes. Rookie tight end Ian Thomas missed a sure touchdown catch on a perfect throw in the end zone. Devin Funchess, despite finishing with nine catches for 77 yards, had a crucial third-down drop. Rookie DJ Moore turned a short pass into a 51-yard touchdown run. McCaffrey was Newton’s main target at wideout, catching 14 passes for 102 yards.
C+ Offensive line: To the surprise of many, Carolina’s offensive line did pretty well on Sunday considering its two starting tackles are on injured reserve, and the new left tackle, Chris Clark, has been with the team for less than a week. Newton was hit five times and sacked twice (one was not the fault of the line, as the play was too slow-developing). Carolina also couldn’t get into a rhythm on the ground.
F Defensive line: Head coach Ron Rivera said it best about the performance of his defensive line against the run on Sunday: “Terrible.”
The Panthers let Tevin Coleman gash them for 107 yards on 16 carries. The Panthers’ pass-rush was also essentially non-existent.
C Linebackers: Luke Kuechly finished with a team-high eight tackles, two of which were for loss. Shaq Thompson made a big third-down stop to help get the Panthers’ offense the ball back with 1:48 to play. But the linebackers needed to provide better run support.
C Secondary: While third-year cornerback James Bradberry held prolific Falcons receiver Julio Jones to 64 yards on five catches, the rest of Ryan’s receivers, including rookie Calvin Ridley, gashed Carolina for a few big gains. Rookie corner Donte Jackson gave up a touchdown but also had his first career interception.
B-plus Special teams: Graham Gano hit a 54-yard field goal in the first quarter. Punter Michael Palardy was able to pin Atlanta a few times. Ridley had two kick returns for a total of 50 yards.
C Coaching: Rivera and defensive coordinator Eric Washington have a few bumps to work out this week, including issues with stopping the run and rushing the passer.