SEA-CAR grades: Luke Kuechly, Kawann Short star in Panthers' win
Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Panthers’ 31-24 divisional-round win over the Seahawks:
–The day started off terribly for quarterback Russell Wilson (+1.6 PFF game grade), but he rebounded with an impressive second half where he nearly put his team in position for an unlikely comeback win. He did it making the best throws of any quarterback this weekend, and did so despite facing pressure on 20 of his 56 dropbacks. Ultimately, though, his play in the first half when he was both erratic and seemingly shell-shocked helped put the Seahawks in a hole that was too significant for them to dig out of.
–If you’re looking for a position group to blame for this loss, look no further than their offensive line. While Garry Gilliam kept Charles Johnson relatively quiet, almost the entire unit struggle. Justin Britt (-4.3), in particular, stood out for all the wrong reasons. He was too slow to deal with Panthers DT Kawann Short, getting beat for two hits and two more rapid-fire hurries.
–If the struggles of the O-line were somewhat expected, what was not expected was the inability of the defensive line to get pressure on Carolina QB Cam Newton. They didn’t have a ton of opportunity, given Newton’s limited dropbacks, but the whole team managed just five quarterback disruptions, with only Brandon Mebane recording more than one. And while it certainly didn’t help losing Cliff Avril to injury after just 24 snaps, the lack of impact made by the defensive line stood out as a deciding factor in this game.
WR Jermaine Kearse (+3.4)
S Kam Chancellor (+2.5)
DT Brandon Mebane (+2.3)
LB K.J. Wright (+2.0)
DT Ahtyba Rubin (+1.8)
–This wasn’t the Cam Newton (+1.8) we’ve become accustomed to seeing this year. While he and Wilson earned similar grades, how the two QBs achieved it couldn’t have been any different. Outside of a fine touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen, Newton kept things very simple. His running threat neutralized by the Seattle defense, he prioritized avoiding mistakes that would allow Seattle back into the game. Indeed, it was a selfless display that was rewarded with a critical victory.
–You don’t win PFF’s “Night Train” Lane award for the best coverage defender in the NFL without making some pretty spectacular plays. Linebacker Luke Kuechly (+4.1) did exactly that in this one, with a pick-six and a stunning pass break-up highlighting what a unique talent Kuechly is.
–Speaking of unique talents, Sunday was another day for defensive tackle Kawann Short (+5.1) to demonstrate just how explosive he is. Rushing the passer more than any other Panther, his motor never let up and he got up close and personal with Russell Wilson on a number of occasions. All told, he produced a seven-disruption day (one sack, two hits and four hurries).
DT Kawann Short (+5.1)
LB Luke Kuechly (+4.1)
DE Jared Allen (+3.6)
TE Greg Olsen (+4.1)
S Roman Harper (+3.0)