SF-CAR grades: WR Kelvin Benjamin earns career-high grade in Panthers’ win

Highest-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Panthers' 46-27 Week 2 win over the 49ers in Charlotte.

| 9 months ago
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

SF-CAR grades: WR Kelvin Benjamin earns career-high grade in Panthers’ win

Carolina Panthers 46, San Francisco 49ers 27

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Panthers’ Week 2 home win against the 49ers.

San Francisco 49ers

Quarterback grade: Blaine Gabbert, 50.4

Blaine Gabbert struggling to assert himself as 49ers’ long-term starter

Nothing Blaine Gabbert has done in the first two weeks has convinced onlookers of his long-term suitability for the starting spot. Despite being offered relatively good protection, Gabbert recorded yet another poor outing in Week 2. He completed only five of 16 attempts beyond 10 yards, with two picks. Gabbert was highly erratic in the short range, as well, managing an adjusted completion percentage of only 61.8 overall. It will be difficult for San Francisco to compete in the NFC West with their current staple of quarterback options.

49ers QB Blaine Gabbert

Top offensive performances

LT Joe Staley, 84.1

C Daniel Kilgore, 81.6

RT Trenton Brown, 79.5

LG Zane Beadles, 77.5

RG Andrew Ziller, 77.4

Clean sweep of top grades for San Francisco offensive line

With all five starting lineman earning the top grades on offense for the 49ers, the strength of this offense is evident. A mauling run blocker with athleticism to match, LT Joe Staley is one of the NFL’s best O-linemen. He allowed just a solitary hurry in 42 dropbacks. Combined, the starting offensive line allowed just six pressures. In addition, four of the five up front earned run-blocking grades of at least 74.6. An offense severely lacking talent can at least be confident of its production in the trenches.

Top defensive performances

LB NaVorro Bowman, 82.0

LB Gerald Hodges, 78.9

CB Jimmie Ward, 78.3

S Eric Reid, 77.8

OLB Eli Harold, 75.3

Scarcity of pass-rushers crippling defensive effort

Good players can be found throughout the core of the 49ers’ roster, but the absence of top edge rushers is evident. Ahmad Brooks is more of an effort rusher at this stage of his career. Opposite him, Eli Harold had a fine game, but made little impact in his primary role. He managed just a solitary hit, while Brooks added a single pressure. Backup Cornellius Carradine also managed a hurry. With just a hit and two hurries from 54 rushes, San Francisco’s edge defenders could do little but watch as Cam Newton picked them apart.

Carolina Panthers

Quarterback grade: Cam Newton, 79.8

Cam Newton overcomes rocky start for solid overall performance

Newton’s performance was far from flawless, but the positives outweighed the negatives. Being super-critical, his performance was perhaps a little below his high standards. He started dreadfully, forcing a late throw over the middle that was deflected for a pick. Newton improved substantially after his rocky start, connecting on a particularly precise bomb into a tight window to Ted Ginn. The splash plays that typically accompany Newton were present as usual, as this turned into a solid outing for the reigning NFL MVP.

Cam Newton passing under pressure versus 49ers

Cam Newton passing under pressure

Top offensive performances

WR Kelvin Benjamin, 88.8

RT Mike Remmers, 80.8

LT Michael Oher, 80.7

QB Cam Newton, 79.8

RG Trai Turner, 79.3 

Kelvin Benjamin earns career-high grade

Deprived of Benjamin for the entirety of 2015, the Panthers were forced to spread the ball around offensively. Now with Benjamin back—and in this kind of form—he can elevate a unit that made the Super Bowl a season ago. His physicality provides another dimension for an offense stacked in the trenches and backfield. Overall, he caught seven of eight targets for 108 yards and two touchdowns versus the 49ers. Most memorably, Benjamin managed to haul in a slightly underthrown deep ball, deflected at the catch point, with only his left hand. If he can emerges as an elite wideout, an already-loaded Panthers’ offense will be that much more difficult to defend.

Top defensive performances

CB James Bradberry, 91.3

LB Luke Kuechly 86.4

LB Thomas Davis, 83.2

CB Daryl Worley, 81.9

DE Mario Addison, 76.0

Faith in youth rewarded in the secondary

Cutting All-Pro players is a rarely successful personnel policy; throwing rookies in as replacements is even more of a risk. Cornerback James Bradberry is unlikely to reach Josh Norman’s level on a consistent basis, but he was outstanding against the 49ers. On seven throws into his coverage, he allowed only one catch for 6 yards, picked off a pass, and deflected another. Blaine Gabbert’s QB rating targeting him was 0.0. Bradberry wasn’t the only rookie corner making plays for the Panthers, however; late-round selection Daryl Worley had a pass deflection of his own, and gave up only two short receptions otherwise. The best defenses rely on standout corners, increasing the pressure on the Panthers’ young contributors. They’ve responded well so far.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin

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John joined the PFF team in 2008, providing focused analysis on the NFL draft, team-building strategies, and positional value.

  • zinn21 zinn21

    Kelvin Benjamin is ridiculously good.

  • crosseyedlemon

    After a cakewalk win against the Rams it was almost inevitable that the Niners would suffer a hard landing this week. They did manage to score 27 against a 15-1 team from last year though and that has to be encouraging to coach Kelly.

    • Raul Fender

      Last year the most they scored was 27. This isn’t pretty but they are way better on offense this year.

  • John Cho

    I thought bradberry was the one that got beat on the torrey smith td? Unless they counted that against Tre Boston.

    • Lathan

      They counted it against Tre Boston, Rivera said he was out of position.

    • JT

      I was wondering why they let Bradberry on an island out there with NOBODY and I mean nobody in sight out there back to help him at all.

  • Cheyne Johnson

    49ers were only down 7 with 8 minutes to go. Just let it get out of hand in the late 4th quarter. If the Niners had any kind of pass rush they might of had a chance late.

    • David

      Hey, the fact that the Panthers played so sloppy and were -3 in the turnover differential at that point (finished -1 after Luke and Bradberry’s INTs – but that doesn’t matter per your time frame) and still had a 7 point lead right there speaks to how they shouldn’t have let it stay so close that late. Clean up those turnovers and different game I’d say. In fact I just checked. 49ers had 20 points off of their 4 turnovers and only 7 by themselves. Panthers had 16 points off of their 3 turnovers and 30 by themselves. Nice clean game, Panthers win 30-7.

      • Raul Fender

        The offense still needed to score. The defense didn’t score the 49ers touchdown.

        • JT

          Ted Ginn fumble basically gave them a TD back to back that should NEVER happen on a kickoff in the NFL.

    • David

      But I will say that the 49ers D is for real and I think they’re currently the 2nd best team in their division. I can’t wait to (hopefully) watch them take down the Seahawks next week.

  • MosesZD

    Andrew TILLER. Not Ziller. Jeeze.