The Carolina Panthers defeated the Washington Redskins 21-13 in what was perhaps a must win for the team. Cam Newton looked good and while he didn't play at an extremely high level, he played with balance and did enough to give the Panthers their second win of the year.
Carolina's defense came to play as well, bringing a physical style to their strategy and keeping RGIII on the move all day long. The defensive line was at its best again as they were able to apply pressure and get multiple sacks in the game.
The following are the following grades and analysis following the Panthers win over the Redskins on Sunday.
Overall - A-
He didn't need to do too much but he was able to get the job done and propel Carolina to a victory. The one thing about Cam Newton is he can play a balanced game like today and with help from his teammates, do enough to win. Newton's final stat line: 13/23 for 201 yards and one touchdown. He rushed for 37 yards and had a quarterback rating of 100.1. His QBR was 85.7.
4th Quarter - A
Late game lead. Check. Deep throw and completion to Armanti Edwards. Check...wait, what?! Newton threw a beautiful pass to Edwards that looked to go the all the way into the end zone but was stopped inside the 20. Nevertheless, Newton was able to engineer points and took advantage of the pass interference call which put Carolina at first and goal. Using his rushing ability, Newton easily scored and padded their lead in the quarter where it matters most.
Newton is making the transition from play maker to game manager. He hasn't been called upon to do too much as the Panthers have been conservative to wind down the clock. It's doubtful he will need to throw again unless its a short pass to move the chains.
Not sure why Newton tried throwing deep but he almost had another great connection with Smith. It seems he may need to throw as Washington will anticipate a more concentrated rushing attack.
3rd Quarter - C
It's hard to fault a quarterback for not moving the ball when his receivers are dropping his passes. It's too early to tell how Newton's performance will translate in this period but there is no reason to start casting doubt at the moment.
With Newton getting good production from his running backs, he hasn't really had the need to throw as much. He overthrew Louis Murphy while overlooking a wide open Steve Smith on an underneath route. Newton didn't do himself any favors with a delay of game penalty but so far that seems to be his biggest mistake.
2nd Quarter - A
Newton can be the master of improvisation when everything is going right. A shovel pass to Jonathan Stewart prevented him being sacked and extended Carolina's series. Additionally, he is taking advantage of the miscues made by the Redskins, as penalties have resulted in first downs and free yards.
He has had a couple of misfires with some of his passes but his pocket presence and accurate throw to Steve Smith for a touchdown has increased Carolina's lead. After one half of football, Newton is looking very good with a line of 8/14 for 91 yards one touchdown and 31 rushing yards. His quarterback rating is 100.6.
While he could be more accurate he gets a high mark for finding Smith and increasing their lead.
1st Quarter - B+
Newton looked decent early, making some good throws but he he under threw a couple of receivers including Greg Olsen on third down. He is spreading the ball around and not locking onto one particular receiver.
After seeing his first drive stall, Newton has taken charge of the offense and has started moving the ball with authority. He seems to be having fun as well. He has made some good throws and used his running ability to pick up a couple of first downs.
He was instrumental in getting the Panthers their first points on the day so his grade early will be favorable.
After a rough start and controversial actions/remarks during the game and interviews, Cam Newton hopes to lead the Panthers to a win with a strong performance against the Redskins. Overall, his production has been lower than expected, but he is still a viable threat under center.
It should be interesting to see how accurate his throws are and how much he runs against the Washington defense. Last year, he picked up a huge gain on Carolina's first offensive snap after the 'Skins brought a heavy pass rush.
How successful Newton is and his ability to keep turnovers to a minimum will play a part into the offense's success and whether or not the Panthers leave the nation's capital with a win.
Overall - A-
The offense wasn't spectacular but they made the plays when it counted. The running backs are still searching for their first 100 yard rusher but Stewart paved the way with 51 yards on the ground and Williams contributed with a rushing score that put the Panthers up front and kept them there.
Edwards' big catch in the fourth quarter may be a sign of things to come for him this year with LaFell still reeling from his concussion. Steve Smith finally scored his first touchdown of the year and almost had a second one later in the game.
The line was outstanding, giving Newton time to throw and not allowing the pocket to collapse. They did a great job when he ran the ball as well as open up running lanes for the running backs. This was perhaps one of their better games of the season.
Here is an interesting fact: Carolina had two scoring touchdown scoring drives of 90+ yards for the first time in franchise history. Their win at FedEx Field marked the first time the Panthers had defeated the Redskins in Landover. Two very big positives to take away from this game.
4th Quarter - B+
Where in the world did Armanti Edwards come from? Newton threw a beautiful pass to him resulting in an 82 yard reception and setting up the Panthers nicely deep in the Redskins territory. Carolina received a huge gift in the form of a pass interference call that put them at first and goal. Newton is able to do what he does best and sneak in for the score. Carolina leads big 21-6.
The offense is looking to wrap this game up and get out of town with the win. Don't expect the receivers to be too involved as the running backs should carry the unit the rest of the way.
The Panthers take over and this should be their final drive of the game. A first down will end it and secure the win for Carolina. They did what they needed to do and burn as much time off the clock as possible.
3rd Quarter - C
The offense has been pretty good and especially so on third down. They have converted four of six third downs but missed a great opportunity to keep their drive alive after a dropped pass from Greg Olsen. So far, this possession was the most unimpressive by the Panthers.
The running backs are looking good and Stewart has shined with a couple of big gains in this game. After eight games, it seems as though they are finally doing what they were suppose to do when the season started. Overall this period, the Panthers offense has looked mediocre and a shell of the unit they were when the game opened up. A couple of missed throws and a penalty led to Carolina having to punt for a second time in this game.
2nd Quarter - A+
The Panthers did everything right on their second offensive possession to include taking advantage of the the free yardage from the Redskins. Newton and the running backs did their part to move the ball, including an alert play by Stewart to receive the ball on a shovel pass by Newton to avoid the sack.
Steve Smith got his first touchdown of the season, hauling in a nice pass from Newton that put the Panthers up 14-3. Winning starts with seizing each opportunity and Carolina has taken advantage of everything they have received.
1st Quarter - A-
The offense picked up where it left off and made the plays necessary to score. Both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart look like their former selves and picked up huge gains on Carolina's second drive. Williams had a nice run into the end zone putting the Panthers ahead 7-3.
Overall, the offense looks balanced and it seems to look a lot like the team that finished in the top ten offensively last year.
The line has looked sharp for the first offensive series giving Newton time to throw and opening up some running lanes for the running backs. Tight end Greg Olsen has made a couple of nice grabs but after a good start to their opening drive, the Panthers stalled and had to punt.
The offense is starting to see key players go down on their side of the ball with Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil out for the year and Brandon LaFell possibly out with a concussion. Along with Steve Smith, Newton will have to look for Louis Murphy and Kealoha Pilares throughout the day.
Tight end Greg Olsen will provide a nice check-down target along with the tandem of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert out of the backfield.
Last week, the Carolina offense went away from the read option in favor of a more conventional pro-style offense and did well. It should be interesting to see if they maintain that scheme or attempt to input a little trickery into the playbook.
Overall - A
Aside from surrendering the late touchdown, their really isn't too much negative to say about the defense. Both Johnson and Hardy played the way they were expected to and were in RGIII's face practically all game.
The linebackers and secondary brought an intense and physical style of play with them that set the tone for the game defensively. It shouldn't surprise anyone if the Washington players wake up a little sore tomorrow morning.
The only drawback to take away from today's game were the the two personal fouls but in the end, they really didn't matter.
4th Quarter - A
There is no question the defense came to play. They have been playing inspired football all day and have really gone after RGIII in this quarter. Carolina wants this win bad and if the defense keeps doing what they are doing, they should be able to secure a victory.
Carolina is not making things easy for Griffin III or his teammates. Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson have made things especially tough as Griffin III has been sacked four times in this game. This is a big stop for the Panthers defense as it allows the offense to milk more time off the clock and put the game further out of reach for Washington.
Three missed interceptions is tough to swallow but luckily the Panthers are leading so it really is a non-factor. Though the miss by Josh Norman is really tough because had he caught it, the game is essentially over. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to keep the Redskins out of the end zone and find themselves with a one possession lead with 1:28 left in the game.
The Panthers defense showed up and didn't give the Redskins much of anything on the final drive of the game. They locked down the open field and were able to secure a win.
3rd Quarter - B-
The defense looked a little like a bend but don't break unit and ultimately stopped the Redskins following a challenge won by Ron Rivera. The challenge kept Washington at third down and the defensive front was able to get into the backfield and sack Griffin III bringing up fourth down and a punting situation.
Carolina brought the heat late in their second defensive series and made the plays when it mattered most deep in their own territory. Greg Hardy showed awesome strength by literally throwing his man to the ground in his pursuit to get to the quarterback. Washington had made it a habit of going for it on fourth down deep in Carolina territory but decided to play it safe and go for the easy three making the score 14-6 Panthers.
Giving up a lot of yards on the ground? Not a problem for the Panthers since they seem to find a way to get into the Redskins backfield and harass RGIII. Entering the final quarter, they have the Skins at third down.
2nd Quarter - A-
Carolina seems to be taking a step back defensively, giving up yards on the ground at an alarming rate. Much like the first quarter, they are shooting themselves in the foot as another personal foul has kept the Washington drive alive. Credit the Panthers for laying the lumber on the Redskins, as it has been a very physical game for the defense.
It doesn't bode too well to allow a fourth down conversion inside your own territory but that is what the Panthers did, allowing the Redskins to maintain possession. This happened not once but twice; though the second one was 4th and inches.
The third time is the charm! Another fourth down on the two yard line and the Panthers defense held firm. The defense made a statement keeping RGIII at bay and out of the end zone to maintain their slim lead.
The Carolina defense did not allow the Redskins to do anything on their last possession of the half and have been instrumental in keeping their team out in front. It all depends on how they perform in the second half and whether or not they leave FedEx Field with a win.
1st Quarter - B+
The Panthers got after RGIII early and what looked to be a three and out, turned into a personal foul penalty that allowed the Redskins to continue their opening drive. The line was able to get pressure on Griffin III early but Greg Hardy was a little too aggressive and drew a penalty for roughing the passer.
Field position looks to play a factor in how the Panthers will determine their defensive strategy. They applied constant pressure when they had Washington pinned deep, but when RGIII had room to move, Carolina was forced to cover more ground and not allow him to get free in open space.
Fortunately, the opening drive for Washington only netted them three points and the Carolina defense looks to keep their team in the game.
Last week the defense provided a heavy pass rush against Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler but couldn't get to him in the second half. Look for a consistent rush and spy from the Panthers against the mobile Griffin III.
The defense will be without Jon Beason and Chris Gamble but have done very well without them the past two games. Rookie Luke Kuechly has played admirably at middle linebacker, and Captain Munnerlyn has done a good job in place of the injured Gamble.
This is a unit that has steadily improved over the last few weeks, and it would be nice to see Carolina get a win to reflect that improvement.
Overall - B+
They didn't do too much today but then again, they really didn't need to. Pilares and Munnerlyn looked good on a couple of decent returns and the kickoff team did not give up a lot of yards on ensuing kicks.
Medlock and Nortman had their issues kicking but in Medlock's situation, he missed from 50+ yards. Nortman seemed to do too much on his one botched kick which ended up being considerably short. Once again, neither mistake turned out to be costly. There is still a lot of work to be done on special teams though.
4th Quarter - B+
While not explosive, the special teams hasn't really made any blunders save for Nortman's bad punt in the previous quarter. Captain Munnerlyn had a decent return showcasing some nifty moves on his return. He is no Joe Adams but he at least he holds on to the ball.
Medlock missed a 51 yard attempt but it really shouldn't matter. The only drawback to his miss is that Rivera may think twice about using him in a similar situation when the game is much closer.
Carolina had its sure hands team out there to field the onside kick and the Panthers will take over at midfield.
Nortman was on the receiving end of a running into the kicker penalty which was declined by Rivera. Washington takes over at their own 17 with :18 to go.
3rd Quarter - C+
Nortman had another awful punt giving Washington great field position late in the quarter. It seems as though for every good punt he has he follows it up with a bad one. If anything, his punt will bring down the special team's grade for this period.
2nd Quarter - A
Justin Medlock is still perfect on PATs and the kickoff team has kept the Washington special teams unit in check. They went with a squib kick following their second touchdown but the Redskins couldn't do too much with it.
This unit has been fairly quiet after one half of football but have done well when on the field.
1st Quarter - B-
After downing the opening kickoff in the end zone, Kealoha Pilares took advantage of a short kickoff late in the first quarter and put the Panthers in decent field position to start their second drive.
Brad Nortman got a great punt off at midfield that was spotted inside the Washington five yard line. That will allow Carolina the ability to be aggressive on defense from the start.
Justin Medlock finally saw a lot of action last weekend and was called upon to kick four field goals, all of which he converted. He was also asked to keep the ball away from Chicago return man Devin Hester, which saw a lot of squib kicks on every Carolina kickoff.
That shouldn't be the case this week as the Redskins don't have an explosive returner on their team. However, the Carolina kickoff unit is notorious for giving up chunks of yards on kickoffs, so they cannot take anyone lightly.
Brad Nortman needs to have a better game this week as his lone punt from last week went a ridiculous six yards and set up a scoring drive for the Bears. The rookie is a great punter when he executes his punts correctly but can be the team's Achilles' heel when he makes mistakes.
Don't expect Joe Adams to be returning kicks or punts as he is still improving his skills with the scout team. Captain Munnerlyn should still be back as the return man along with Kealoha Pilares.
Just as they had throughout the game, the coaching staff gets high marks for this game. They didn't try to get fancy and Chudzinski showed how good his offense can be without using the read option. McDermott's defense is getting better each week and they are slowly transforming into the unit everyone envisioned when he arrived in Carolina last season.
Don't be fooled. Rivera's seat is still plenty warm and he has a long way to go if he is to remain as the Panthers head coach. This was a good win to get even if it was against a below .500 team. As it stands, there are plenty of teams with a better record than Carolina right now.
4th Quarter - A
The coaching staff came into this one with a gameplan and stuck with it. There was no need to be fancy with the play calling and as a result, Rivera and his staff were able to get Carolina's second win of the season. There is still a long way to go for this team but with the win, it is a big step in the right direction.
3rd Quarter - A
The third quarter saw Rivera's first challenge of the season and he won which kept Washington at third and long allowing the Panthers to stop their drive by sacking RGIII.
So far, the coaching staff is sticking with the game plan and find themselves with the lead heading into the fourth quarter.
2nd Quarter - A
The coaching strategy is still in place and neither coordinator has gotten too cute in their play calling. After a couple of personal foul penalties, they should be preaching discipline and fundamentals to ensure those same mistakes don't happen again.
Ron Rivera seemed to use his timeouts early in the second quarter but it didn't affect the team as they went into the locker room up 14-3.
1st Quarter - A
The coaching staff is sticking to what works and are using the strengths of their offense and defense.
On offense, they are staying balanced and not running any read options. Newton and company has looked good so far and because of the conventional play calling, have jumped out to the early lead.
This is perhaps the one part of the team under the most scrutiny so far this season. Ron Rivera and his staff are going to need to make sound decisions and not be too conservative against a dangerous Washington team.
For Rivera, he will need to make sure he doesn't second-guess himself and put his team in a position to score points when the situation presents itself.
Offensive coordinator Rob "Chud" Chudzinski finally got the memo about the read option last week and incorporated a more conventional pro-style offense. It should be interesting to see what he calls this week against Washington.
Sean McDemott has seen his defense start out slow but slowly come together the past couple of weeks. He probably has the most improved unit on the team despite the injuries to Beason and Gamble. He should be aggressive with the pass rush as the focus will be to limit RGIII in and out of the pocket.