CAR-LA grades: Panthers' linebackers lead the way in road win
Carolina Panthers 13, Los Angeles Rams 10
Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from Carolina’s 13-10 win over the Rams in Los Angeles.
Newton avoids turnovers despite heavy pressure
Quarterback grade: Cam Newton, 51.8
Carolina’s offensive line was completely overmatched against the Rams’ defensive front, making it a long day for QB Cam Newton. Newton’s average time to throw in 2016 is 2.65 seconds, the ninth–highest among NFL quarterbacks. Los Angeles’ relentless pass rush forced Newton to get rid of the ball more quickly than usual; his average time to throw was 2.34 seconds on Sunday, about equal to Drew Brees’ season average of 2.31 seconds (the fastest mark of any NFL quarterback in 2016). The Panthers were also forced to completely abandon the deep-passing game, attempting just one pass of 20+ yards. Newton avoided turning the ball over despite being sacked five times, and hurried on 13 more snaps. He was also effective on intermediate passes, finishing 7-for-11 for 121 yards on passes thrown 11-20 yards, including a touchdown pass to TE Greg Olsen in the first quarter.
Top offensive grades:
TE Greg Olsen, 79.2
RT Daryl Williams, 79.0
WR Kelvin Benjamin, 75.8
WR Ted Ginn, 67.6
HB Jonathan Stewart, 66.6
Panthers’ O-line overmatched by Rams
The four lowest-graded Panthers in this game were offensive linemen, as Carolina could not contain the Rams’ defensive front. LT Mike Remmers and LG Andrew Norwell each allowed a sack and five hurries, and all five starters on the offensive line earned below-average run-blocking grades. RG Trai Turner allowed four hurries, and finished with a game-worst 28.8 run-blocking grade. The Panthers finished with just 60 rushing yards on 24 attempts (removing the kneel-down at the end of the game), despite forcing six missed tackles.
Top defensive grades:
LB Thomas Davis, 90.6
LB Luke Kuechly, 89.1
DT Kawann Short, 83.9
CB James Bradberry, 82.0
DE Mario Addison, 80.4
Linebackers lead the way in road win
Carolina LB Luke Kuechly continues to stake his claim as the NFL’s best linebacker. Kuechly has led all NFL linebackers in overall PFF grading for three consecutive years, and has been better than any of his peers in the run game by a wide margin this season. The Boston College product led all defensive players with a 92.5 run-defense grade in this game, and made 11 total tackles without a miss. LB Thomas Davis earned above-average grades for run defense, coverage, and pass-rushing, recording one sack and two hurries on just seven blitzes for a team-leading 86.7 pass-rushing grade. DT Kawann Short was also excellent, finishing with a hit, three hurries, a batted pass, and a pair of run stops.
Keenum overwhelmed by Carolina pass-rush
Quarterback grade: Case Keenum, 40.7
Rams QB Case Keenum has struggled under pressure all season, and currently ranks dead last among NFL quarterbacks in both adjusted accuracy percentage (48.7) and QB rating (31.2) under pressure. This game was no exception, as Keenum finished 7-for-17 for 64 yards with an interception under pressure, and was sacked four times. While both quarterbacks faced relentless pressure in this game, Newton was able to finish the game without a turnover, while Keenum’s interception to Panthers LB Thomas Davis with pressure in his face led to a Carolina field goal. In a defensive battle like this one, the difference between winning and losing often comes down to a handful of plays. In fairness to Keenum, he threw a fourth-quarter pass to TE Lance Kendricks on 3rd-and-7 in the red zone that Kendricks let fall through his hands. The Rams were forced to settle for a field goal, and that dropped touchdown was every bit as impactful as the interception.
Top offensive grades:
RT Rob Havenstein, 76.6
HB Todd Gurley, 71.3
WR Kenny Britt, 61.2
C Tim Barnes, 56.4
WR Brian Quick, 56.3
Rams’ offense continues to sputter
Another week, another non-existent rushing attack for the Rams. Los Angeles owns the worst team run-blocking grade in the NFL, and HB Todd Gurley is paying the price. Last season’s Rookie of the Year has seen his average yards per carry fall from 4.8 to just 3.1 this season, and is averaging 2.2 yards after contact after finishing with 2.9 last season. Gurley finished fourth in elusive rating in 2015, and ranks 27th of 43 qualifying NFL running backs this season. LG Rodger Saffold was the biggest problem in this game, finishing with a team-worst 32.1 overall grade after surrendering two sacks, two hits, and five hurries while also earning a team-low 39.3 run-blocking grade.
Top defensive grades:
DT Aaron Donald, 94.1
LB Alec Ogletree, 83.0
DT Dominique Easley, 82.1
DE Eugene Sims, 80.2
DE Robert Quinn, 78.3
Aaron Donald’s dominant season continues
Rams DT Aaron Donald finished first in our top 101 players of 2015 ranking, and is currently on pace to finish with an even better grade this season. With Texans star J.J. Watt on injured reserve, Donald simply does not have any peers among NFL interior defensive linemen. Donald rushed the passer 32 times against the Panthers, and finished with nine hurries and two sacks. LB Alec Ogletree has quietly had a strong season, earning above-average grades in five of his eight games in 2016. Ogletree had a tough game against the Cardinals in Week 4, but has been excellent against the run this year. He was at his best against the Panthers, finishing with 10 tackles (eight run stops) on his way to a team-best 87.1 run-defense grade.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Rams, DT, Aaron Donald
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