KC-CAR grades: Secondary leads Chiefs to comeback win
Kansas City Chiefs 20, Carolina Panthers 17
Here are the highest-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Chiefs’ 20-17 comeback win over the Panthers in Week 10:
Quarterback grade: Alex Smith, 47.5
Smith relies on the short stuff
It was a trademark game from Alex Smith, who completed 23 of 27 passes that traveled fewer than 10 yards in the air, while hitting his receivers just twice on 10 attempts that traveled 10 yards or more down the field. Smith gained 148 of his 178 passing yards on those short throws to go with an 89.5 QB rating. He had just 30 yards on intermediate and deep throws, and also had an interception (that was a result of him misreading the safety in the middle of the field) that helped bring his QB rating on those throws to zero.
Top offensive grades:
C Mitch Morse, 84.5
T Mitchell Schwartz, 82.7
G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, 79.4
WR Tyreek Hill, 75.5
RB Spencer Ware, 57.4
Offensive line stabilizes Kansas City offense
Kansas City offensive linemen combined to allow just eight total pressures on the day in pass protection. Six of those (including a sack) were surrendered by LT Eric Fisher (42.6 overall grade), with Mitch Morse, Mitchell Schwartz and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif combining to allow just one pressure between them. With Jeremy Maclin out, Tyreek Hill was easily Smith’s most active and reliable pass-catcher on Sunday, catching 10 of 13 targets for 89 yards, with six of those catches resulting in a first down. Spencer Ware averaged 4.7 yards per carry on the day, with 32 of his 61 rushing yards coming after contact to go with three forced missed tackles.
Top defensive grades:
CB Marcus Peters, 91.0
S Eric Berry, 89.3
CB Steven Nelson, 85.1
ILB Ramik Wilson, 84.9
ILB Derrick O. Johnson, 80.8
Star-studded secondary ignites Chiefs’ comeback
Kansas City’s aggressive press-man scheme requires great depth in the secondary to succeed. Safety Eric Berry gave up a couple of first downs to Greg Olsen, but otherwise enjoyed an outstanding game. He gave up only three catches on five targets for 26 yards, with a critical pick-six, and a pass breakup. In Berry and corner Marcus Peters, the Chiefs’ have a pair of defensive playmakers capable of winning games single-handedly. Peters did just that, taking the ball away from Kelvin Benjamin with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, setting up the winning field goad l with a forced and recovered fumble. On 10 targets, Peters also managed three pass breakups.
Quarterback grade: Cam Newton, 79.3
Newton plays well overall, but commits crucial error
Ultimately, Cam Newton recorded a solid grade against the Chiefs. The Panthers’ quarterback was a key reason for Carolina’s two-touchdown lead at the end of the first half. But in one moment of madness he discarded much of that good work. Holding an 11-point lead with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Newton sensed pressure off the left side and tried to force a ball into tight end Greg Olsen. Chiefs safety Eric Berry picked off the pass and was dancing in the end zone seconds later, and Carolina’s lead was reduced to just three after a Chiefs two-point conversion. The play was a microcosm of Newton’s issues under pressure. In total, he completed only three of 10 attempts for 40 yards and the aforementioned pick when disrupted in the pocket. Despite a decent outing, Newton will likely feel culpable for the loss after his pick-six.
Top offensive grades:
QB Cam Newton, 79.3
C Gino Gradkowski, 79.3
RT Daryl Williams, 78.7
LT Mike Remmers, 77.0
WR Devin Funchess, 70.9
Rebuilt line still a work in progress
Much of Carolina’s success in 2015 was built on the physicality of its front five. Injuries have disrupted the group’s continuity and offensive production has suffered as a result. Mike Remmers still appears psychologically scarred from his Super Bowl beatdown at the hands of Denver’s Von Miller, and the move from right to left tackle hasn’t made things any easier. He has allowed 34 combined pressures this season, after giving up 56 in the entirety of 2015. Trai Turner also appears to have regressed, highlighted by an ugly beat in pass protection which saw him barely touch Chris Jones on his way to the quarterback. In only his sixth start, RT Daryl Williams experienced predictable hiccups in pass protection.
Solid day against mundane offense for Panthers’ defense
It wasn’t an out-of-this-world performance from the Carolina defense against Kansas City, but the Panthers held their own and provided their offense with opportunities to put this game away. Linebacker Luke Kuechly once again led the defense, tallying a team-high six stops on the day (a stop is a solo tackle which constitutes as a loss for the offense, given the situation), while also getting a hit on Chiefs QB Alex Smith and playing excellent defense in pass coverage. Rookie corner James Bradberry limited the receiver opposite him to just three catches on six targets for a total of 33 yards. Robert McClain allowed all three balls thrown into his coverage to be caught, but Chiefs receivers gained just 10 yards total on those three catches. Mario Addison led the team with six total QB pressures, with one of those being a sack.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Chiefs S Eric Berry
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