It’s time to reward the best performances in the Panthers 48-16 annihilation of an overmatched Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.
QB Cam Newton
What more is there to say about the best offensive rookie in the NFL? He may not be better than Von Miller, but Cam broke the rookie passing record after a seven-yard strike to receiver Brandon LaFell on the right sideline. He only attempted 17 passes, but that’s all he needed to do and averaged 10.1 yards per attempt. He threw three touchdowns and ended up with a 142.4 QB Rating. And oh by the way, that 49-yard touchdown is one to watch; he outran defensive backs on that one. I also want to mention that he ran the triple option extremely well and really fooled the D on his run and DeAngelo’s second touchdown rush.
WR Brandon LaFell
He caught the pass that sent Newton into the record books, but the more notable play was that 91-yard pass that is the longest in franchise history. Two records in one day; not bad for either one of these guys. LaFell made it to the end zone with help from Steve Smith who hustled down field and blocked three guys; his block on E.J. Biggers (the corner who gave up the catch) was especially good. Legedu Naanee has three drops this season, and I don’t know why “Legatron” gets so many targets in crucial situations. LaFell needs to steal some of Naanee’s targets, as he is the better player overall.
Smash and Dash/Double Trouble (whatever you want to call them)
Let’s blissfully ignore that defensive tackles Brian Price and Albert Haynesworth didn’t play, because that would dampen two great rushing performances. DeAngelo Williams took it to the house twice, and his first touchdown was an eight-yard carry filled with great vision. Williams had 66 yards on 7 carries, and Jonathan Stewart added 88 rushing yards on the same number of carries. Stewart also caught an 11-yard TD pass, and the dynamic duo certainly made the most of their matchup against the worst tackling defense the NFL has seen in years.
Darius Butler had a nice tip but struggled in this game on a whole, mainly because there were many plays were he wouldn’t even turn around to stop a catch. Jonathan Martin had the pick that officially- per the WPA chart on Advanced NFL Stats- gave the Panthers a 90% chance of winning, but it was Gamble who was the star of the secondary. It didn’t seem like Gamble gave up a catch at all, and Mike Williams was held to just four catches for 39 yards on 11 targets (3.5 yards per target). Coming into the game, Gamble had only been targeted every 6.7 plays and allowed just 42% of the passes thrown at him to be completed. His 48.4 QB Rating against was the second best in the NFL to only Darrelle Revis, and Gamble has really been a shutdown corner this year. He better be in the Pro Bowl.
The Offensive Line (besides Byron Bell)
I know I hate on Byron Bell too much, but he gave up the team’s lone sack to Michael Bennett and took away a nice run by DeAngelo Williams with a stupid holding penalty. He wasn’t that bad, but Bell didn’t quite shut things down like the rest of the line. Nobody else had a hit on Newton, and they had a collective 3.9 EPA in this one. Keeping Cam’s jersey clean is good enough for me.
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