Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was very happy with the team's play on Sunday against the New England Patriots. Newton pointed out how proud he is of the offensive line and the team's resolve to battle through adversity early on. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was very happy with the team's play on Sunday against the New England Patriots. Newton pointed out how proud he is of the offensive line and the team's resolve to battle through adversity early on. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers report card: There’s an easy winner in the ‘most improved’ category

October 01, 2017 09:05 PM

UPDATED October 02, 2017 08:27 AM

Grading the Carolina Panthers for Sunday’s game at New England.

A Quarterback: What a difference a week (of practice) makes. Cam Newton, who got an F for his showing vs. New Orleans, was superb with three TD passes and one running TD. Newton was in a rhythm after a first-quarter INT, and was effective as a runner.

B Running backs: Fozzy Whittaker gave the offense a jolt with a 28-yard TD catch. Jonathan Stewart overcame a third-quarter fumble with a big gain on the game-winning drive, although Christian McCaffrey never really got going.

Running back Fozzy Whittaker gave the Carolina Panthers offense a jolt with a 28-yard touchdown catch at New England.
Steven Senne AP

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A Receivers: Starting wideouts Devin Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin both had huge games and caught everything thrown to them. Funchess’ third-down catch kept the final drive going, and TE Ed Dickson also was a bigger factor.

A Offensive line: Newton was sacked only twice, and the first one was a scramble in which he got back to the line of scrimmage. Left tackle Matt Kalil bounced back from a rough outing vs. the Saints to stone Dont’a Hightower and the Patriots’ other edge rushers.

B Defensive line: Julius Peppers had the second two-sack game of the season and increased his team-leading total to 4.5. DT Kawann Short also had a sack, and former Patriots DT Kyle Love had two hits on Tom Brady.

B Linebackers: Luke Kuechly had a game-high 14 tackles, including 10 in the first half. Shaq Thompson added 10 tackles in extended action playing for Thomas Davis, whose reps were limited by a rib injury.

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C-plus Secondary: The secondary did a good job limiting the damage despite playing most of the game without Kurt Coleman, who left with a knee injury in the second quarter. The Panthers had two defensive backs who weren’t with the team during the preseason: S Demetrious Cox and CB Kevon Seymour both held up OK.

B Special teams: Graham Gano drilled the game-winner after missing a PAT in the third quarter. Michael Palardy only punted once (for 35 yards). McCaffrey was more effective as a punt returner (12.5-yard average) than a kick returner (19.3).

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A Coaching: The Panthers were left for dead after their abysmal loss to New Orleans. But Ron Rivera kept his players focused during a distraction-filled week, and Mike Shula had a good game plan that involved more running from Newton.