Time to give the Carolina Panthers their weekly report card after losing 36-7 to the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. The grades won’t be pretty, but there were a few players who deserve a tip of the cap.
Pass Offense D-
It was just that kind of a day for Cam Newton and the Panthers, as Newton threw three picks that overshadowed a performance that included some nice deep throws from the second-year QB. He’ll bounce back, but it’s tough not to feel disappointed in the performance he had on Thursday.
Greg Olsen played a great game at tight end and was the star of the offense with 98 receiving yards, and Steve Smith played through the pain to accumulate 86 receiving yards on just four catches. Brandon LaFell had a down game, but this third season of his is going to be a breakout year for him- as he showed us in the first two games of the season.
Although Jason Pierre-Paul tore up the Panthers offensive line, he basically tears everybody up on a regular basis. All told, I was happy with the Panthers pass protection as a whole. They helped continue Justin Tuck’s slump, and Osi Umenyiora was unable to provide a consistent pass rushing source for the Giants.
Run Offense C
DeAngelo Williams ran well by gaining 50 yards on 11 carries, but the Panthers rushing attack lacked a sufficient No. 2 option with Jonathan Stewart out of the game. It showed, and it was a mediocre rushing performance for the Panthers. There’s no reason to be harsh when discussing one of the strengths of the team, and I’m not going to give them a lower grade than a “C” due to the absence of Stewart.
Pass Defense D-
With Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon out, the Panthers job on defense was much easier; it just didn’t play out that way. Ramses Barden went off in a performance that I never saw coming, and Charles Godfrey and the Panthers D looked lost when trying to cover tight end Martellus Bennett. On the bright side, Captain Munnerlyn looked very good against top slot receiver Victor Cruz, as he held the game-changing WR to just seven yards per reception- that’s a more than commendable job.
But the Panthers pass defense as a whole was disappointing against Barden and Bennett, and you just expect more from the unit as a whole. I mean, the Giants were without their No. 1 wideout and Eli Manning was still able to post a 93.1 TQBR (ESPN).
The pass rush was also disappointing, as the Panthers were only able to get two hits on the quarterback (sacks on Manning and backup David Carr). William Beatty was terrific, and right tackle Sean Locklear (starting over the injured David Diehl) was also solid. I honestly think Locklear should start over the overrated Diehl, but that’s another matter (and another team) entirely. Charles Johnson needs to step up.
Run Defense D+
The Panthers were supposed to have more success stopping the Giants rushing attack without star Ahmad Bradshaw, but former Panther Andre Brown went off and built on a solid Week 2 performance. I thought he would do a solid job in this game because he has the hot hand, but I have severely underestimated Brown as a player thus far. He went off for 113 rushing yards on 5.7 yards per carry and two touchdowns.
But here’s the thing, a large reason why he had so much success was the fact that the Panthers linebackers didn’t do the best job against him. James Anderson and Luke Kuechly’s statistics flatter them both, and Jon Beason had a down game as well. Thomas Davis was unable to play, but it’s still disappointing that one of the most talented linebacker units in the NFL was unable to stop a No. 2 back.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.