GB-CAR Grades: Newton rises when needed, Packers falter on road again

The top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Carolina Panthers’ 37-29 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

GB-CAR Grades: Newton rises when needed, Packers falter on road again

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Carolina Panthers’ 37-29 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

Green Bay Packers

– It felt a lot like the previous week for the Packers passing attack, as they were unable to get anything going for the majority of the game. Even during the comeback, QB Aaron Rodgers (-0.4) still looked uneasy, missing on a number of throws and vacating clean pockets, to no avail. This was on display on the last play of the game, as he missed the would-be game-tying touchdown by dropping his eyes in the pocket and looking to move around to make a play (he ended up throwing an interception). Still, Rodgers sprinkled in his usual helping of special throws to keep the Packers close, but an uncharacteristic high number of misses will mar this performance.

– The running back competition continues to be a one-sided affair, as James Starks graded at +2.0 overall, while Eddie Lacy posted his fourth straight negative game at -1.4. Aside from Lacy’s fumble dragging him down, it’s clear that Starks is bringing more to the table at this point, especially when plays are not blocked perfectly. Starks showed an ability to get out of trouble, force the first man to miss (forced four missed tackles in the run game), and find yards even when the blocking isn’t there, while Lacy no longer shows the ability to make defenders miss that he showed in his first two years in the league. He’s now forced only two missed tackles on his last 33 carries.

– Big plays in the passing game were to blame for Green Bay’s early deficit, and there were multiple culprits in the secondary. Both rookie CB Damarious Randall (-1.1) and FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (-2.6) were to blame for WR Devin Funchess’ 52-yard post route, while it was Clinton-Dix leaving WR Jerricho Cotchery wide open for his 59-yard gain. CB Demetri Goodson (-1.2) got into the act as well, getting torched by WR Philly Brown for a 39-yard score, despite getting called for defensive holding on the play. These big plays were the story of the afternoon for the Green Bay defense.

Top performers:

LG Josh Sitton +3.8
RG T.J. Lang +3.2
OLB Nick Perry +2.8
SS Morgan Burnett +2.7
LB Jake Ryan +2.6


Carolina Panthers

– Classic Cam Newton (+0.5 overall, -1.6 in pass game, +2.0 as runner) was on display, as he alternated special plays with head-scratching misses throughout the game. His post route to Funchess was as on-target as you can get, dropping right into his hands for a 52-yard gain, while the touchdown to Brown was also great ball placement. On the other end, he also left a couple touchdowns on the table, whether overthrowing TE Greg Olsen on the seam route at the 5:54 mark of the second quarter, or overthrowing Cotchery on the out route with 4.56 to go in the third quarter. When you add in the poor decision and throw on his fourth quarter interception that let the Packers back into the game, it results in a -1.6 passing grade for the game.

– The right side of the Panthers’ offensive line did a fine job, as RG Trai Turner and RT Mike Remmers graded at +3.4 and +4.1 respectively. Turner’s effort has him tied for fourth among the league’s guards at 89.8, while for Remmers, it’s his second straight positive grade after a pair of disastrous efforts. The duo combined to surrender only two hurries on the afternoon, while grading at +5.7 in the run game.

– Linebacker Luke Kuechly continued his Pro Bowl play with a +3.4 overall grade, including a +1.8 run grade and +2.1 mark in coverage. He used his usual great instincts to beat second level blockers to the point of attack, getting in on a team-high eight tackles and four stops. In coverage, he added yet another pass defensed, his fourth on the season, good for second among inside linebackers.

Top performers:

RT Mike Remmers +4.1
LB Luke Kuechly +3.4
RG Trai Turner +3.2
TE Greg Olsen +2.8
WR Devin Funchess +1.7

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • JudoPrince

    The Panthers have three front runners for defensive player of the year: Short, Kuechly, and Norman. A player on every every level of the D.

  • JudoPrince

    One play in this game that really stood out to me was the 4th and goal at the two minute warning; the last attempt at tying the game for the Packers. They lined up #18 in the backfield and ran him to to the right corner of the endzone off of a WR pick. Well before the ball could be thrown, #89 rams his right shoulder into the DB assigned to #18, planting him into the ground. This left the receiver WIDE OPEN in corner of the endzone. The Panthers were able to get to Rogers though, taking away a clean angle for the throw.

    What will it take for the league to end these type of plays? They are cheap and gimmicky, creating far too much of an advantage for the offense. I understand the league wants a more offensive orientated game, but this is getting out of control.

    • angryspit

      Looked like a missed call. Sort of like when Davante Adams was grabbed right in front of the ref on a 3rd down that was almost intercepted. Mistakes by the officials that don’t have the advantage of watching plays in super slow motion, happen every week in football.

      • JudoPrince

        No, this wasn’t a missed call. The referees have allowed these pick plays in just about every game. Only a small fraction of these have been called as offensive pass interference. How can we keep seeing illegal contact/holding penalties against the the defense, yet continuously watch offences get away with aggressive pick plays.

        • Joe Doe

          I’m a Packers fan, and although that not being called would’ve helped the Packers if Rodgers could’ve seen him, I agree with you. I’ve been thinking about this all season and I wouldn’t be surprised if the competition committee has been talking about this.

          I originally had thought that this would be addressed in the offseason, and it would be called more next season.

          But then I thought again, that this is a league bent on bringing up offensive play, and maybe they wouldn’t get strict on it.

          Then again, there was a play on I believe a Monday night game where Willie Snead injured a defensive player on an illegal pick that was not called, so maybe they would get more strict to reduce injuries.

          Tough to say what the future of pick plays is.

          • Jim Stegall

            My understanding of the rules is that receivers are allowed to initiate contact within one yard of the line of scrimmage. Rivera refered to that play in his show the day after the game and called it a legal play that his defense is just going to have to get better at diagnosing and avoiding.

        • Tim Edell

          Agree 100% with ya!!

        • joshalbritton

          Hard to say, when you can’t even speak proper English. Keep pounding!

    • James Bell

      It was a legal pick the receiver stayed within 1yd of the line of scrimmage when the “natural pick” occurred. An illegal pick is called in areas after that 1yd allowance just like a pi is called after 5yds of line of scrimmage.