Panthers vs. Cowboys: Instant Grades and Analysis for Carolina's Week 7 Game

Stephen Fenech@Fenech2491Correspondent IOctober 21, 2012

Panthers vs. Cowboys: Instant Grades and Analysis for Carolina's Week 7 Game

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    The Carolina Panthers struggled to score points, as the Dallas Cowboys went on the road and beat the home team 19-14.

    The loss drops the Panthers to 1-5, so it may be time to start giving younger players more opportunities to play.

    Let's take a look at the Panthers' final game grades and evaluations. 

Cam Newton- C

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    Overall Game Grade- C

    Cam Newton completed 21 of his 37 attempts and threw a touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell. He also did a good job running the ball, as he compiled 64 yards on just six attempts. 

    The problem with Newton is tied to the offenses' lack of production throughout the game.  

    In the first and third quarter, Newton struggled and the offense was unable to move the ball. He also threw an interception in the end zone, which changed the direction of the game in the second quarter. 

    If an offense struggles, the quarterback is the one that is most scrutinized at that's what is happening here. Newton was unable to make plays happen with his arm, as most of his big completions were throws to wide open receivers. 

    Since the Panthers are now 1-5, the focus should begin to turn to helping Newton grow as a pocket passer since they won't be making the playoffs anyway. 

    Fourth Quarter- C- 

    Cam Newton went two-for-six on the drive that agave the Panthers the 14-13 lead, but those two completions were good for 33 yards.

    Due to Newton's rushing ability, he should be one of the league's best quarterbacks at running out the clock. As evidenced by the Panthers loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4, they may not be the case in reality.

    When Newton ran on the field with 3:25 left, it was clear that this was a season defining moment. If he was unable to lead them into scoring position, Carolina would fall to 1-5 and their season would essentially be over.

    After the Cowboys were given a timeout when they had too many men on the field, Newton failed to convert on a fourth-and-two. The failed conversion gave the Cowboys a chance to run out the clock, and end the Panthers season.

    Newton came back on the field with less than a minute left and no timeouts while down by five points, but was unable to pull off the miracle drive.  

    Third Quarter- C- 

    The Panthers opened the third quarter with the ball, and Cam Newton went one-for-three on the drive. Cam didn't run the ball on the drive, so look for him to rush the ball more as the game continues to progress because he ran the ball so well in the first half.

    Newton went 2-for-6 through the air in the third quarter and was stuffed on a big third-and-one toward the end of the quarter. 

    Cam has been decent in the pocket, but he needs to make more plays in the fourth quarter in order to lead the Panthers to a victory. 

    Second Quarter- B 

    Cam Newton broke off runs of 24 and 21 yards on the Panthers first drive, as he showed exceptional running vision and power. 

    Newton's 21 yard run put the Panthers inside the Cowboys ten yard line, but he threw an interception on third down to end what was an excellent drive.

    Cam can't make mistakes like that, as he took at least a field goal off the board.

    Newton was able to escape from what seemed like an unescapable situation, as he somehow slipped out and scrambled for a first down. In my opinion, Newton was the only quarterback in the league that could have escaped in this situation.

    Newton found Brandon LaFell twice on the touchdown drive, with one of those receptions begin a touchdown.

    First Quarter- C-

    Cam Newton went 2 for 4 in the first quarter and failed to convert on third down twice. He also took a sack, but that wasn't his fault as DeMarcus Ware beat this blocker on Newton's blind side.

    The coaching staff should focus on running the ball in the second half, as the Panthers only one first down. 

    I'm not going to kill Newton yet, as he deserves another couple of drives to make something happen. 

Offense- C-

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    Overall Game Grade- C- 

    The Carolina offense compiled 328 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per play, but only scored 14 points.

    The Panthers trio of running backs failed to produce, as they ran the ball 15 times for 48 yards as a unit. That type of production isn't going to win Carolina games, but they can be forgiven due to the shaky play from the offensive line. 

    Steve Smith was targeted nine times and was able to catch seven of those for 83 yards. Smith turned in another average game for the Panthers all time leading receiver.

    Brandon LaFell and Louis Murphy were targeted a combined 17 times, as the coaching staff decided to utilize Murphy more this week than in the past.

    The offense needs to generate more scoring to win games, and they have been held under 20 points in four of their six games. 

    Fourth Quarter- C-

    Jonathan Stewart took the Panthers first rush of the half up the middle for 20 yards. After he was shut down on the next play, Cam Newton threw a strike to Louis Murphy for 26 yards. 

    Dallas defensive lineman Jay Ratliff was flagged for unnecessary roughness, which in turn gave the Panthers a first-and-goal with 12 minutes left in the game. 

    Cam has struggled throwing the ball in the red zone this season, and he needs to address those problems as he continues to progress as a quarterback. 

    After the Cowboys were called for defensive holding on third-and-goal, Newton handed the ball off to Mike Tolbert who managed to fight his way into the end zone to give the Panthers the lead. 

    While the offense was undoubtedly aided by Dallas blunders, they made the most of the opportunities which is something good offenses do.

    Amini Silatolu was called for his second false start on a third-and-six, and Newton was unable to find an open receiver to convert. The Panthers cannot afford to make mental mistakes in such a close game.  

    Third Quarter- C-

    Cam Newton targeted Brandon LaFell twice on the Panthers first drive of the third quarter. It is clear that the coaching staff wanted to utilize LaFell more this week against Dallas.

    It will be interesting to see if Steve Smith can find some openings in the secondary now that the Panthers have made it clear that they are looking for LaFell on a consistent basis.

    After Jordan Gross was called for a false start, Louis Murphy dropped a strike from Newton that would have gone for a first down. The execution has been sloppy on Carolina's first two drives of the third quarter, and that has allowed the Cowboys to take control of the game.  

    After Dan Bailey gave the Cowboys a 13-7 lead, the Panthers offense went three-and-out as the Cowboys defense contained Newton on a third-and-two. 

    The offense was completely ineffective in the third quarter and better come back to life in the final frame. 

    Second Quarter- B+ 

    On their first play of the second half, the Panthers gave the ball to Mike Tolbert who ran the ball for four yards. Carolina needs to continue to run the ball, as it will take pressure off Newton while giving their talented backs a chance to make plays.

    The Panthers offensive line is different for this game, as Geoff Hangartner is starting at center for the injured Ryan Kalil.

    Amini Silatolu was called for a falls start on a third-and-three at the Cowboys 49 yard line. The penalty made it much more difficult to convert the firs down, but Cam Newton ran and broke it outside for a 24 yard gain. 

    Newton's run was a designed play, and the coaching staff should call that play again later in the game as it was perfectly executed. 

    After Newton broke off another big run, he threw an interception to Morris Claiborne in the end zone.

    There was a Brandon LaFell sighting late in the second quarter, as he hauled in a pass and rumbled for 32 yards and into the red zone. If LaFell can continue to get open, Steve Smith might be able to find some holes in coverage as Dallas would have to account for two solid wide receivers.

    LaFell ran a drag route to perfection toward the end of the second quarter and then outran Claiborne to the corner for a touchdown. Outside of the Newton interception, the offense played a great quarter.  

    First Quarter- C- 

    The Panthers offense went three-and-out on their first drive, as Cam Newton overthrew Steve Smith on third down. 

    On their next drive, Newton was sacked on first down after the offense had managed to move the ball into Cowboys territory. The left side of the offensive line has had a difficult time blocking thus far.

    The Cowboys dominated the ball in the first quarter, so we haven't' really seen what the Panthers offense will be able to do with more ball.  

Defense- B

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    Overall Game Grade- B

    The Panthers defense played well in Week 7, as they limited to the Cowboys to just 19 points while being on the field for over 33 minutes.

    Dallas averaged 4.8 yards per play, which proves that the Panthers defense outplayed the Cowboys offense. Unfortunately, it was all for not, as the Carolina offense couldn't score enough points to win the game.

    The run defense turned in their most impressive performance of the season, as they held the Cowboys running backs to just 2.7 yards per carry.

    Even without Chris Gamble, the secondary held their own for the most part and covered everyone not named Miles Austin and Jason Witten very well.  

    The red zone defense didn't surrender any touchdowns, as the Cowboys were forced to kick field goals on each of their three red zone visits. 

    Luke Kuechly compiled 15 tackles, James Anderson was credited with 12 and Thomas Davis with 10 takedowns. Those numbers alone suggest that the linebacking corp was all over the place, which was exactly what happened. 

    It was a good performance by the defense, and the grade would have been higher if Carolina had won the game. 

    Fourth Quarter- B-

    With the offense struggling in the second half, the defense has had to deal with the pressure of keeping the team in the game. 

    They forced the Cowboys to punt on their first drive of the quarter, as the linebackers are still doing a good job against the run.

    At the midway point in the fourth quarter, the defense has performed admirably without much help from the offense or special teams. That being said, the defense will receive a lot of criticism if the Cowboys are able to drive down the field for the winning score.

    The defense got lucky, as Dez Bryant beat Josh Thomas in coverage but dropped the pass in the end zone. 

    While the defense was unable to keep the Cowboys off the board, they did force them to settle for a field goal with 3:25 left in the game. 

    The Panther defense gave the offense a chance to win this game and performed well against a team with a lot of weapons.

    After the Carolina offense failed to drive down the field, the referees called a questionable unnecessary roughness call which gave the Cowboys a first down and forced the Panthers to call all of their remaining timeouts.   


    Third Quarter- C-

    The Panthers defense continue to keep the Cowboys receivers in front of them, and forced Dallas to punt on their first drive of the half. 

    This is without a doubt one of the defenses best performances in recent memory at this point, but there is still a lot of football left to play. 

    Miles Austin has had the most success against the Panthers secondary, and that has carried over into the third quarter. Austin caught two passes from Romo on their second drive of the half, with one of those receptions being a 26 yard touchdown catch. 

    Austin is having no problem beating the Panthers corners in man coverage, so Carolina needs to double team him with a safety.

    The Cowboys offense began their next drive on the Panthers 40 yard line. On the drive, the Panthers shot themselves in the foot with a defensive holding that extended the Cowboys drive.

    Romo has looked comfortable when throwing the ball to Austin and Jason Witten, so the Panthers should forces on covering them to take Romo out of his comfort zone.  

    Second Quarter- B+

    After struggling to slow down the Cowboys offense after the Cam Newton interception, Thomas Davis knocked the ball out of Miles Austin and it was scooped up by Luke Kuechly. 

    Carolina's defense hasn't allowed many big plays and are keeping Romo's receivers in front of them. The pass rush has been stagnant at times, but that hasn't translated into Cowboys points.

    The Panthers defense bent but didn't break in the first half, and the fumble that Davis forced stopped what was a promising Cowboys drive.  

    First Quarter- C- 

    The Panthers defense has looked very fast thus far, especially Luke Kuechly who is playing middle linebacker in Jon Beason's place.

    Tony Romo looks comfortable looking for Jason Witten in the first quarter, as the two connected three times on the Cowboys second drive.

    Romo is being given too much time in the pocket and is easily shredding the Panthers secondary as he has completed his first eight passes. If the Panthers have to blitz to get pressure on Romo then they need to, because their secondary will not be able to slow down the Dallas receivers without Chris Gamble. 

    The Cowboys ended the first quarter with the ball on the Panthers seven yardline with a third-and-goal 

Special Teams- C

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    Overall Game Grade- C

    Brad Nortman punted the ball six times and was able to pin the Cowboys inside their own 20 yard line twice.

    Kealoha Pilares averaged 24 yards on his two kick off returns, and Captain Munnerlyn was unable to get anything going on his four punt returns.

    The special teams unit is more or less on the field to progress the team without making mistakes, as they haven't made a significant positive play this season.  

    Fourth Quarter- C

    It was another quiet quarter on special teams, as the unit is more or less there to progress the game.

    Third Quarter- C-

    On Brad Nortman's second punt of the quarter, he booted the ball 50 yards out of his own end zone. Dez Bryant returned the punt for ten yards, which put the Cowboys at the Panthers 40 yard line.

    Outside of that, there weren't any notable plays on special teams in the third quarter.  

    Second Quarter- C

    It was another quiet quarter no the special teams front, as the Panthers are yet to make a big play in that area this season.  

    First Quarter- C

    Dan Bailey kicked the opening kickoff out of bounds, which was a break for the Panthers special teams unit. 

    Nothing else notable happened on special teams in the first quarter. 

Coaching- D

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    Overall Game Grade- D

    This coaching staff no longer receives the benefit of the doubt, and it may be time for offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to find another place of employment.

    GM Marty Hurney has received too much of the blame, as he cannot coach the players that he acquires. The Panthers roster is loaded with players that have Pro Bowl potential, but you would never know by watching them play(especially the offense).

    This coaching staff is 7-15, which is unacceptable. 

    While all of the blame shouldn't be placed on the coaches, they are a lot easier to replace than a roster full of players. 

    Fourth Quarter- D 

    The defense played very hard, and it's a shame that their effort went to waste. The coaching staff is not getting enough out of what is a talented offense, which could cost them their jobs at some point in the near future.

    Coaching staffs are judged on wins, and Rivera's staff only has one triumph this season.

    The offense didn't look prepared and there are no excuses for that.

    The Panthers have the talent to win games like these on their roster, but this coaching staff just isn't getting it done.   

    Third Quarter- C-

    The Cowboys dominated the third quarter, as they scored ten points and stopped the Panthers defense on two third downs. 

    At least Ron Rivera has been conservative when placed in tough situations, which will hopefully ensure that the Panthers will have a chance to win late in the game. 

    Second Quarter- B

    I'm going to give the coaching staff the benefit of the doubt thus far, as the offense and defense played very well in the second quarter. 

    If Cam Newton hadn't throw an interception to Morris Claiborne in the end zone, Ron Rivera's team would be up by two scores at halftime. 

    First Quarter- C

    The Panthers failed to get anything going on offense, and Tony Romo is picking apart the secondary.

    Ron Rivera and the defensive staff need to find a way to get more pressure on Romo. If they don't, then Romo is going to have a big day.