Joseph Person grades the Carolina Panthers for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers.
C- Quarterback: Cam Newton completed less than 50 percent of his passes for a fourth consecutive week, finishing with the second-lowest completion percentage (37.0) of his career. Newton threw a touchdown and an interception, although Kelvin Benjamin didn’t help him out on the pick.
C- Running backs: Jonathan Stewart had an athletic, 20-yard run when he somersaulted and kept his balance with his helmet on the leg of a Chargers defender. Other than that, there wasn’t much of note from the running backs, who at least held on to the ball.
C Receivers: Benjamin, who gets an F for effort, brought this grade down. The No. 1 wideout caught one pass for 11 yards on four targets. Devin Funchess fought through a mouth injury to pull down two passes for 33 yards, including a touchdown. Greg Olsen added four receptions for 87 yards.
C Offensive line: There weren’t a lot of running lanes created up front. The front five, playing with the same starting group for the second week in a row, protected pretty well. Left guard Andrew Norwell had a couple of nice blocks in space.
B+ Defensive line: The front four contributed four of the five sacks, including two by Kawann Short. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle, who also took snaps at end with Charles Johnson out, had his first forced fumble since last December.
B+ Linebackers: A.J. Klein and Shaq Thompson finished with seven tackles and forced a turnover. Klein had a strip-sack against Philip Rivers, and Thompson intercepted him. Luke Kuechly missed his third game in a row while in concussion protocol.
A Secondary: Rookie cornerback Daryl Worley had his best game. The third-round pick led all tacklers with 10, had his first career interception and made a nice pass breakup vs. tight end Antonio Gates on a 2-point conversion try. Safety Kurt Coleman added eight tackles and an intercepion, and James Bradberry had another strong game in coverage.
B+ Special teams: Graham Gano was 4-for-4 on field goals and has made nine in a row since Week 9 in Los Angeles. Punter Michael Palardy had a 42.6-yard net on five tries, and Colin Jones made a couple of big plays in coverage.
B Coaching: Sean McDermott’s defense bounced back after a tough outing at Seattle, despite playing without Kuechly and Johnson. Ron Rivera’s teams have always played well in December, regardless of whether the Panthers are still in the hunt or not.