Carolina Panthers: Week Three Report Card


When thinking back to the Carolina Panthers‘ week-three debacle, I feel like I woke up with a hangover.  The 2-0 start seems so far away and the sour taste of a game that didn’t go well for the Panthers is fresh in my mouth.  Offensively, defensively and on special teams, this Carolina squad fell below expectations.

Let’s take a look at how the team graded out, in this week’s Report Card:


Much the way the success of the Panthers’ first two wins was due to the play of the quarterback, this week’s failure is on Cam Newton‘s shoulders.

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He just does not look healthy back there and was under duress all night.  OC Mike Shula has got to figure out a way to help Cam by establishing the running game.  Newton wasn’t horrible and put up an average stat line of 24/35-250-1 for the game, but could not move the chains when the team needed him to.

He was sacked three times and lost a fumble on the night.  Though these stats aren’t really all his fault, Newton just looked average all game.  GRADE: C-

Running Backs:

Eight total carries by Panther running backs all game is insane.

Jonathan Stewart is hurt…. again, and Mike Tolbert is banged up too.  The lack of a rushing attack is becoming a big issue that Mike Shula needs to solve.  The backs could not grind anything out and the stale Tolbert dive for no gain is getting old fast.  They aren’t a threat in the receiving game and the overall lack of production is negatively affecting Newton.

The Steelers shut down the Panthers’ running game early and would not budge all game long.  Then again, they only saw eight runs all game, so it wasn’t really rocket science that their rush defense was so strong.  GRADE: F

Receivers/Tight Ends:

Kelvin Benjamin continues to amaze everyone with another productive game.  He broke the century mark and hauled in another touchdown.  Philly Brown had a strong first game as a starter and Greg Olsen was reliable as ever.

Brown had a strong training camp and preseason, and looked very comfortable receiving Newton’s passes all game long.  Even Brenton Bersin had a nice catch.  Jerricho Cotchery was a spectator and Jason Avant, though playing, was quiet all night.  The passing game was a bright spot, but their impact was negated due to other areas of subpar play.

I was excited all preseason to see more of an impact from the tight ends, but both Ed Dickson and Brandon Williams have been MIA thus far.  Thanks, Shula!  GRADE: B

Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line:

The Panthers’ offensive line didn’t dazzle and didn’t fizzle either.  The good news is that Cam Newton had time to throw the ball.  The bad news is that the offensive line could not open holes up for the running game.

The lack of gaps for Panther RBs is becoming a consistent issue every week.  In order for the offense to succeed, the running game has to be a factor.  Week three saw the Pittsburgh defense stife the rushing attack, which caused the gun-shy OC to force the Panthers into a one-dimensional attack.

Cam was only sacked three times, but the O-line is going to have to step up a little harder as the season wears on.  GRADE: C+

Defensive Line:

The Carolina defensive front was neutralized all game.  They were a non-factor and only generated one sack.

The Steelers got rid of the ball quickly and removed the strength of the defense with strategic quick routes.  Combined with a lethal dose of Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, the Panthers were dominated in the trenches.  The Steelers’ offensive line manhandled the defense and Ben Roethlisberger was barely touched.

Charles Johnson has been quiet in 2014 and needs to take over the role of DL juggernaut with Greg Hardy not available.  GRADE: D


Another area that got torched on Sunday night.

The trio of Panthers’ linebackers looked mediocre-at-best and could not handle the pace of the Steelers’ offense.  Several big gains ripped through the intermediate part of the field and the Pittsburgh offensive train chugged along all night.  The Steelers’ running backs ran over the Carolina linebackers several times and left the LBs out of position often.

Big gaping runs, poor tackling and Heath Miller looking like he was 24-years old again were part of the lowlights for this unit.  Thomas Davis suffered an injury and it is unclear if he will be ready for week-four.  GRADE: D-

Defensive Backs:

With a running game that gashed the Panthers for 255-yards, the receivers didn’t have to do much.  Carolina’s DBs were adequate, though choked a few times, which led to Steelers’ touchdowns.

Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Antoine Cason had another solid game and is really looking like a potential All-Pro if he keeps up this pace.  Antonio Brown is a tough cover, and he nearly hit the 100-yard mark, but did find the end zone twice.  Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud looked good most of the night too.  GRADE: B-

Special Teams:

Brad Nortman and Graham Gano continue to have strong games for the Panthers.  Philly Brown muffed two kicks and lost a critical fumble just as the Panthers looked to be gaining momentum.

The return games need improvement big time, and the loss of Ted Ginn, Jr. is really apparent.

Outside of the two Brown miscues, the special teams for Carolina looks good,  but really need a more reliable returner.  Perhaps if they are patient with Brown, he will fix his mistakes and eventually be a threat in the return game.  GRADE: B-