Reporter Joseph Person grades the Carolina Panthers’ performance against The Arizona Cardinals.
D QUARTERBACK : Cam Newton has had two memorable games in the desert. This wasn’t one of them. He passed for more than 300 yards, but he held the ball too long in the pocket, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
B- RUNNING BACKS : The Panthers rushed for 95 yards against a Cardinals defense that was allowing only 75 rushing yards a game. DeAngelo Williams didn’t have a lot of running room, but caught two passes for 30 yards. Mike Tolbert averaged nearly 8 yards a carry.
F RECEIVERS : First-half drops by Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell cost the Panthers touchdown opportunities and early momentum. Both caught four passes, as did Ted Ginn Jr. But the passing attack went missing for a big stretch of the second half.
D OFFENSIVE LINE : The seven sacks – tied for the most against Newton – were not all the line’s fault. But most of them were. A miscommunication between center Ryan Kalil and left guard Travelle Wharton after Amini Silatolu was injured resulted in a safety.
D DEFENSIVE LINE : The front four was often a step slow coming after Carson Palmer, who got the ball off quickly and was sacked just twice. Rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei didn’t make many plays, but he wasn’t alone in that distinction.
B- LINEBACKERS : Luke Kuechly made a game-high nine tackles and had one of three Panthers interceptions. Thomas Davis had four stops. Chase Blackburn, whose play prompted the trade of Jon Beason, was credited with two tackles.
B DEFENSIVE BACKS : Safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Lester each had an interception. Cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn, Josh Thomas and Drayton Florence limited Larry Fitzgerald to three catches for 43 yards.
C SPECIAL TEAMS : Graham Gano stayed perfect on field goals this season with two more, including a 51-yarder. Punter Brad Nortman averaged 48.8 yards on four punts to help keep Patrick Peterson in check. A personal foul on Jordan Senn on a kickoff return proved costly.
C COACHING : Ron Rivera went for it on fourth-and-1 in the first half, and LaFell dropped the ball. He finally won a replay challenge. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula had a good game plan, but the players didn’t execute it.