Reporter Joseph Person grades the Carolina Panthers performance against Buffalo.
C QUARTERBACK : The Panthers had Cam Newton throw more deep balls. And he hit a couple, including a 40-yard touchdown strike to Ted Ginn Jr. But Newton could never connect on any long passes to Steve Smith, and he threw an interception to end a scoring threat on the games first drive.
B RUNNING BACKS : DeAngelo Williams had another strong game, rushing for 85 yards on 22 carries. Williams also did a nice job helping out with pass protection. Fullback Mike Tolbert averaged 4.2 yards on six carries.
B- RECEIVERS : Tight end Greg Olsen caught seven passes for 84 yards and a touchdown and was asked to stay in and help block defensive end Mario Williams on occasion. Smith caught five for 52. Brandon LaFell had a drop, and there were no Domenik Hixon sightings.
D OFFENSIVE LINE : Williams has given a lot of teams fits, and he had his way with tackles Byron Bell and Jordan Gross. Williams 4.5 sacks were the most the Panthers have ever allowed to an opposing player. The line run-blocked well in the fourth quarter.
D DEFENSIVE LINE : Defensive end Greg Hardy doesnt have a sack through two games and got an X-ray on his ankle after the game (he said he was fine). The line allowed the Bills to rush for 149 yards and got little pressure on rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel. The only sack was by safety Quintin Mikell.
D LINEBACKERS : Jon Beason, who is returning from microfracture knee surgery, continues to struggle in coverage. Beason was beaten several times and was fooled twice by play-action passes. Luke Kuechly missed a couple of tackles, and his pass interference penalty kept the Bills game-winning drive alive.
C- DEFENSIVE BACKS : The Panthers hung in despite losing three starting defensive backs to injury. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn played well against the run and pass. But the miscommunication between D.J. Moore and Josh Norman on the game-winning touchdown pass was costly.
A- SPECIAL TEAMS : Graham Gano was 3-for-3 on field goals, and Brad Nortman averaged 51.4 yards on five punts. Ginn averaged 10 yards on punt returns and 26.7 yards on kickoff returns.
F COACHING : In a game he had to win, Ron Rivera decided on a field goal on fourth-and-1 instead of going for the first down and possible put-away score. And the defense let a rookie QB go 80 yards in less than two minutes with no timeouts. Inexcusable.