Grading the Carolina Panthers for Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles:
C Quarterback: Cam Newton attempted a career-high 52 passes had three interceptions, but none were his fault. Newton certainly did not have a great game. But he was the only part of the running game that worked, as he gained 71 of the team’s 80 rushing yards.
D Running backs: Only Christian McCaffrey (10 catches and his second TD reception) saved this group from an F. Jonathan Stewart had a stat line that looked like a typo: Eight carries for minus-4 yards. Stewart also dropped a pass that was picked off by the Eagles deep in Panthers’ territory. No bueno.
D Receivers: Kelvin Benjamin caught nine passes for 99 yards, but he also had a drop and appeared to cut his route short on Newton’s final interception. Devin Funchess also had a drop and wasn’t much of a factor. The longest completion was a 20-yarder to Funchess.
F Offensive line: The run blocking has been abysmal the past two games, with linebackers screaming through the gaps to bury Stewart and McCaffrey behind the line of scrimmage. Trai Turner got pushed for much of the game, and backup center Tyler Larsen gave up a sack to Fletcher Cox.
F Defensive line: The Panthers had eight hits on Eagles QB Carson Wentz, but only one by a defensive lineman – Julius Peppers’ 150th career sack. Peppers’ strip-sack resulted in a fumble recovery by Kawann Short, and that was about it as far as disruptive plays by the front four.
D Linebackers: The Panthers’ defense lost a lot when Luke Kuechly left with his third concussion in as many years. Thomas Davis had six tackles and a sack. Shaq Thompson was burned by Nelson Agholor for a TD. David Mayo, Kuechly’s replacement, fnished with only one solo tackle.
F Secondary: CB Daryl Worley was benched in favor of Kevon Seymour, who played OK but gave up a deep ball to Alshon Jeffery. S Mike Adams had a team-high eight tackles, but couldn’t get his hands on Zach Ertz’s second TD catch. The secondary misses Kurt Coleman’s playmaking instincts.
B Special teams: McCaffrey ripped off a career-long, 25-yard punt return to give the offense a short field, which Newton cashed in for a TD. Graham Gano made three more field goals, but didn’t get a chance at a 58-yarder at the end of the first half. Daryl Worley missed a chance to recover a muffed punt by Kenjon Barner.
F Coaching: Offensive coordinator Mike Shula has this stubborn insistence on running the ball on first down, even when the run game stinks. And Shula’s late-game play calling cost the Panthers a shot at a comeback win. Taking deep shots with three-plus minutes remaining – when Newton hadn’t completed a deep ball all game – didn’t make sense.