Reporter Joseph Person grades the Carolina Panthers’ performance against the Eagles.
D QUARTERBACK : Cam Newton struggled again when the game mattered, holding on to the ball too long and telegraphing passes to receivers, including the interception that Bradley Fletcher returned for a touchdown. The protection wasn’t very good, but Newton has regressed in his fourth season and still looks like he’s less than 100 percent.
C RUNNING BACKS : DeAngelo Williams fumbled on his second carry, setting the tone for what was a bad night for the offense. Williams averaged 2.4 yards on 13 carries. Jonathan Stewart was a little better, averaging 3.3 yards a carry and leaping in for a 1-yard touchdown.
D RECEIVERS : The Panthers rediscovered tight end Greg Olsen, who had a career-high 119 yards receiving on six catches. Rookie Kelvin Benjamin, like Newton, padded his stats late. But Benjamin stopped running on a slant route on Newton’s first interception and had another drop. No. 3 quarterback Joe Webb played receiver in the second half when Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant couldn’t separate from defensive backs.
F OFFENSIVE LINE : The Panthers had their line intact for the first time in several weeks, but it didn’t matter. Carolina allowed nine sacks, matching the most in a regulation game in team history. Left guard Amini Silatolu did not look good in his return after missing three games with a calf strain. But it was an across-the-board failure for this group.
D DEFENSIVE LINE : The front four failed again to generate consistent pressure, giving Mark Sanchez time to zip passes across the field and – more importantly – avoid turnovers. Defensive end Charles Johnson was not credited with a defensive statistic – the second time this season that’s happened to the highly paid end. X-rays on defensive tackle Star Lotulelei’s ankle were negative.
B LINEBACKERS : Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis combined for 15 tackles, and Davis had the lone sack. Davis narrowly missed a strip-sack on Sanchez, and the veteran continued running hard sideline to sideline when the score got out of hand.
F DEFENSIVE BACKS : The secondary gave up a pair of 100-yard receivers as wideout Jordan Matthews (seven catches for 138) and tight end Brent Celek (five for 116) ran roughshod through the defensive backfield. Strong safety Roman Harper had a rough night trying to cover Celek. Cornerback Antoine Cason was benched for the start of the game, but he came in for Melvin White in the second half.
D SPECIAL TEAMS : Punter Brad Nortman outkicked his coverage, then failed to make a tackle on Darren Sproles’ 65-yard return for a touchdown in the first quarter. Nortman did a better job punting toward the sideline later, but the damage was done.
F COACHING : The Panthers finished a grueling, five-game stretch of the schedule without a win. Ron Rivera said he’s not worried about his team’s psyche, adding that the problem has been the performance. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula tried to establish the running game, but he had to abandon it when the Eagles got up big early. Shula’s long pass play on fourth-and-1 in the second quarter was a head-scratcher.