ARI-CAR grades: Thomas Davis shines before exiting with injury
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Carolina Panthers’ 49-15 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game.
– In the biggest game of his career, quarterback Cam Newton (+3.3) delivered another strong performance. He wasn’t perfect, missing on all three of the passes of 20 yards or more downfield and outside the right numbers, including the interception to Patrick Peterson. Outside of those throws, though, there was little he did wrong, and he was strong throwing downfield elsewhere, going four-of-four for 208 yards and a touchdown on throws 20 yards or more downfield and either in the middle of the field or outside the left numbers. Factor in his game-breaking ability as a runner, which the Cardinals could do little to stop when he did run the ball, and he was once again a big reason for a Panthers’ victory.
– He only played 31 snaps before injuring his arm, but linebacker Thomas Davis (+3.9) had a huge impact on the game in the first half. A standout against the run and in coverage, he allowed just two receptions for 20 yards, with all six of his tackles resulting in a defensive stop. The injury is significant enough that it poses a threat to his availability in the Super Bowl, something which would be a huge loss to the Panthers’ defense.
– Adding another two interceptions to an impressive collection this season, Kurt Coleman (+3.4) stole two passes away from Carson Palmer to ruin two Arizona drives yesterday. Both of them came on plays where Palmer forced the ball to the receiver, despite Coleman lurking, but both saw the safety go and make a play on the ball. He was second amongst safeties with seven regular season interceptions, and will be hoping to pick off Peyton Manning next Sunday.
LB Thomas Davis +3.9
RT Mike Remmers +3.9
S Kurt Coleman +3.4
QB Cam Newton +3.3
LG Andrew Norwell +3.3
– Everything that Cam Newton was, Carson Palmer (-9.1) wasn’t, and then some. He failed to complete any of the seven passes of 20 yards or more downfield that he attempted, including seeing two of them picked off. He looked to be finding a rhythm on the drive that saw the Cardinals score early in the fourth quarter, but he unravelled from that point on once again. The throw that resulted in the interception returned for a touchdown by Luke Kuechly had little impact on the outcome given the score at the time, but was a fitting was sum up a dismal performance from the Cardinals’ quarterback.
– After the highs of the overtime win over the Green Bay Packers last week, Larry Fitzgerald (-2.3) didn’t exactly have the type of game many were expecting to see. Running 29 of his 43 routes out of the slot kept him away from cornerback Josh Norman, but the player who has been one of the best from the slot in 2015 dropped two passes, both of which would have resulted in first downs.
– Safety Rashad Johnson (-2.9) has been up and down in coverage throughout the year, but he came undone on two plays on Sunday. After giving up the reception to Philly Brown in the first quarter, he couldn’t find a way to bring him down, instead seeing the speedy receiver charge all the way for an 86-yard touchdown. Then, with a little under 6 minutes to go, and the Cardinals all but out of the game, he was left in single coverage with rookie receiver Devin Funchess, giving up the touchdown that put the game away beyond any doubt.
S Tony Jefferson +2.5
WR J.J. Nelson +1.0
LB Kareem Martin +0.7
CB Patrick Peterson +0.7
C Lyle Sendlein +0.6