IND-CAR Grades: Kuechly, Newton lead Panthers to 7-0
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Panthers’ 29-26 overtime victory over the Colts:
– Having missed three games at the start of the season, Luke Kuechly (+6.5) has come back in sublime form, adding to that last night with his highest single-game grade since his rookie season (+7.0 against Oakland in 2012). Snagging that interception at the end of regulation would have capped his game perfectly, after tying his season-high with eight stops, adding a pass defense, and his overtime interception off Roman Harper’s deflection to help drive the Panthers to victory.
– Driving the offense was quarterback Cam Newton (+4.0). While he didn’t complete a high percentage of passes, he made some spectacular throws on the plays that he did put on the money. That included a drop by Ted Ginn (-0.5) in overtime for what would have been a worthy game-winner; but he wasn’t put off by that, coming back on the very next play with an excellent pass to Greg Olsen (+1.6 receiving) in tight coverage on a corner route to help maintain the Panthers’ unbeaten start.
– The Panthers’ defense is littered with veteran players, and one of their standouts last night was Charles Tillman (+2.4), who has been outshone by the emerging CB Josh Norman (+1.7) for much of the season. Targeted seven times, Tillman surrendered three catches for 44 yards while getting his hands to two passes, breaking one up, and stealing the first interception from Andrew Luck early in the game on a bad misread by the Colts’ QB, as Tillman sank a little deeper into his zone late on to come up with the turnover.
MLB Luke Kuechly (+6.5)
S Roman Harper (+4.2)
S Kurt Coleman (+4.2)
QB Cam Newton (+4.0)
CB Charles Tillman (+2.4)
– For a fleeting moment, this looked like it might transform into a great turnaround for Andrew Luck (-4.8) and the Colts. Ultimately, there was no salvation for team or quarterback. Fortunate not to have thrown the game away at the end of regulation, Luck’s performance was marred by poor reads and poor execution throughout, with only his relative hot streak in the fourth quarter exploiting some soft coverage from the Panthers threatening to turn the game around.
– Luke Kuechly wasn’t the only linebacker flying all over the field last night, as Jerrell Freeman (+7.2) turned in a second straight spectacular performance in a losing effort. Freeman registered five stops and assisted on a couple more to boot, consistently getting the better of the Panthers’ tight ends against the run, with Olsen and Dickson combining to earn a -6.2 run block grade.
– On the surface, Vontae Davis’ (-4.2) stat line looks like a strong night in coverage for the Colts’ number one corner. Targeted seven times, he surrendered three catches for 46 yards and a touchdown, with an interception and a pass defense; however those seven incompletions hide a really tough night for Davis. The beneficiary of two Ted Ginn drops on targets 20 or more yards downfield, Davis was also beaten twice, but rescued by inaccurate throws, and his interception was a bad under-throw by Newton, with Ginn once again behind the coverage. On another night, Davis’ stat line might have looked very different.
LT Anthony Castonzo (+7.8)
ILB Jerrell Freeman (+7.2)
DE Kendall Langford (+3.0)
OLB Trent Cole (+3.0)
ILB D’Qwell Jackson (+2.3)