CAR-NO Grades: Panthers fend off Saints, remain undefeated
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Panthers’ 41-38 win over the Saints.
– QB Cam Newton (+8.0) earned his best grade of the season, finishing with 380 combined passing and rushing yards. Newton was 10 of 14 for 154 yards, 2 touchdowns and a 147 QB Rating under pressure, and was nearly perfect after an early interception to Saints CB Delvin Breaux. This game did nothing but strengthen Newton’s case for NFL MVP, especially after his game-winning 75-yard touchdown drive (63 passing yards, 7 rushing yards) that kept the Panthers undefeated.
– All four of Carolina’s starting defensive linemen earned positive grades in this game, led by veteran DE Charles Johnson (+2.3). The team combined for a +6.0 pass rushing grade, and DT Kawann Short recorded six total pressures. Short has been dominant both as a pass rusher and in run defense this season, and currently ranks 5th of 67 qualifying NFL defensive tackles with a +34.6 overall grade.
– HB Jonathan Stewart (+0.5) made the best of the mediocre run blocking in front of him (-3.4 team run blocking grade), forcing six missed tackles and earning 54 of his 82 rushing yards after contact. Led by Stewart and Newton, the Panthers totaled 175 rushing yards at 5.1 yards per carry, even though the Saints’ front seven consistently won their matchups against Carolina’s offensive line.
QB Cam Newton (+8.0)
DE Charles Johnson (+2.3)
DT Kawann Short (+2.1)
DE Jared Allen (+1.8)
LB Thomas Davis (+1.5)
New Orleans Saints
– Drew Brees (+1.4) had a productive game overall, but was affected by Carolina’s pass rush (+2.0 grade with a clean pocket, -1.5 grade under pressure). The Saints finished with a -6.6 team pass protection grade, and Brees was pressured on 18 of his 45 drop-backs. Brees’ QB Rating dropped from 112.8 to 31.6 when the Panthers sent more than four pass rushers. HB C.J. Spiller played just five snaps on offense, and appeared to run the wrong route on his only target of the day.
– New Orleans’ defensive front seven was impressive against the run, as six players earned green grades in that area. LB Stephone Anthony led the way with four stops and a +3.1 run defense grade, and four other players each recorded three run stops. DT Kevin Williams earned a season-best +4.5 overall grade with two run stops and six pressures. Williams has quietly enjoyed an excellent season, and currently ranks 12th of 67 NFL defensive tackles with a +12.8 season grade.
– The Saints finished with a -7.0 team pass coverage grade, and were unable to slow down the Panthers’ passing attack after star CB Delvin Breaux (+2.8) left the game due to injury. CB Brandon Browner earned a team-worst -4.9 grade after allowing a pair of touchdowns and committing three penalties. With twenty penalties in just 12 games, Browner already holds the record for the most penalties in a season of any cornerback in the PFF era (2007-present). Linebackers Stephone Anthony (-2.0 coverage grade) and James Anderson (-2.1 coverage grade) also struggled in coverage; Newton finished 8 of 9 for 114 yards when targeting them.
DT Kevin Williams (+4.5)
DE Cameron Jordan (+3.1)
CB Delvin Breaux (+2.8)
DT Tyeler Davison (+2.6)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (+1.7)