Reporter Joseph Person grades the Carolina Panthers’ performance against the Vikings.
A QUARTERBACK : A week after a poor performance at Arizona, Cam Newton bounced back in a big way. Newton went through his reads, didn’t force throws and finished with the highest passer rating of his career (143.4).
B RUNNING BACKS : DeAngelo Williams helped protect Newton with several nice chip blocks on his way out of the backfield. Williams and fullback Mike Tolbert ran hard and took care of the ball, and both were factors in the passing game as well.
A RECEIVERS : It wasn’t just that Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell caught the ball after dropping a couple at Arizona last week. They also delivered big blocks, as did No. 3 wideout Ted Ginn Jr., who drilled cornerback Xavier Rhodes on LaFell’s 79-yard touchdown catch.
A- OFFENSIVE LINE : After allowing seven sacks against the Cardinals, the line gave Newton (sacked once) a consistent pocket from which to throw. Guard Travelle Wharton moved and blocked well in his first start since Amini Silatolu went down with a season-ending knee injury.
B- DEFENSIVE LINE : The front four didn’t get a ton of pressure on Matt Cassel, although rookie tackle Kawann Short was in Cassel’s face when he threw an interception on the opening series. The interior also occupied blockers so the linebackers could make plays.
A LINEBACKERS : Thomas Davis showed up everywhere, picking up two sacks and two pressures on blitzes, and making tackles in the open field. Davis finished with a game-high nine tackles, and Luke Kuechly added seven.
B+ DEFENSIVE BACKS : Free safety Mike Mitchell had two interceptions, giving him three in two games. Mitchell also had a nice takedown of Adrian Peterson to save a touchdown. Strong safety Quintin Mikell made five tackles in his first action since injuring his ankle in Week 2.
B SPECIAL TEAMS : Graham Gano had the benefit on kickoffs of two 15-yard penalties, not that he needed any help. Brad Nortman also was effective, putting all three of his punts inside the 20.
A COACHING : Ron Rivera stepped out of his comfort zone to change his team’s fortunes, going for two fourth-and-1’s on an opening drive that set the tone for the day. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had a creative plan to keep Peterson in check, while Mike Shula had his best day as a Panthers’ play-caller.