Panthers vs. Broncos: Final Grades and Analysis for Carolina's Week 10 Game
The Broncos' pass rush lived in the Panthers' backfield, as Cam Newton was running for his life the majority of the game.
That along with both the offense and special teams surrendering touchdowns proved to be too much for the Panthers to overcome.
Let's take a look at the Panthers' final game grades and evaluations.
Cam Newton: C
Overall Game Grade: C
At the end of the game, Newton turned in a decent performance considering how poorly his offensive line blocked for him all day.
On what felt like the majority of dropbacks, Newton was quickly forced to run for his life. He was sacked seven times in the game, with one of those sacks resulting in a safety that only added insult to injury.
Cam persevered and led the Panthers on a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, but he also made some major mistakes. In the third quarter, for example, he made a poor decision and floated a pass that resulted in a pick-six rather than taking a sack.
After the Broncos returned the interception for a touchdown, the game had a different feel because Carolina was down 17 points.
Newton still has a lot of work to do in regards to his accuracy while inside the pocket, so we will continue to monitor his progression as the season continues.
Fourth Quarter: C-
In the fourth quarter, Newton was sacked twice, with one of those sacks resulting in a safety.
Newton did lead the Panthers on their second touchdown drive of the game in the fourth, as he found Greg Olsen four times on the drive including the touchdown toss.
Cam threw an interception toward the end of the quarter, but the ball should have been caught by Armanti Edwards.
Third Quarter: F
Newton threw his second pick-six in three weeks. It is unacceptable to surrender points while on offense, which is something Newton has done too much of this season.
On a 1st-and-10 play with a little less than 10 minutes to go, Newton haphazardly floated a pass toward Brandon LaFell who was on a delayed route.
The poor decision allowed Tony Carter to jump in front of LaFell and return the ball down the sideline for a touchdown.
The state of affairs aren't improving for Newton, as he is now having to contend with a ferocious Broncos pass rush.
When a QB throws a pick-six, he gets an F, especially when that QB doesn't do anything positive for the entirety of the quarter.
Second Quarter: C-
Newton completed 3-of-7 pass attempts in the second quarter, with all of his completions coming on the Panthers' final drive of the half.
He has attempted to spread the ball around, but has only completed three passes since the touchdown drive at the beginning of the first quarter.
Through the first half, Cam has taken care of the ball through the air.
Unfortunately, he has been very inaccurate from the pocket at times. He must improve from inside the pocket, as he won't be able to take the next step as a quarterback until he can do so.
First Quarter: B+
After completing 6-of-9 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown, Newton was good in the first quarter. He has had time in the pocket, which is a testament to the strong play of the offensive line in pass protection so far.
It will likely get more difficult as the game progresses because the Broncos will attempt to take away Greg Olsen and shorter passes.
Newton was stripped while in the pocket by Elvis Dumervil toward the end of the quarter, but that can be attributed to poor pass protection on the right side of the offensive line.
Overall Game Grade: D
This was among the worst performances we have seen from the Panthers offense so far this season.
While the Panthers did score two touchdowns, they had almost no success on the rest of their drives. They were a woeful 0-for-12 on third down and averaged just 3.9 yards per play. In comparison, the Broncos averaged 5.9 yards per play and converted on a quarter of their third downs.
Greg Olsen had another big day, as he caught nine passes for 102 yards and found the end zone twice.
The play of the offensive line ultimately doomed the entire unit, though, and Cam Newton was sacked seven times.
The rushing attack also struggled due to the poor blocking, averaging just 2.5 yards per rush.
Hopefully Carolina will find a way to improve offensively, because if it doesn't, the second half of the season will be just as frustrating as the first half.
Fourth Quarter: D
The offensive line has been utterly dominated; the Broncos amassed five sacks by the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Broncos secondary is doing an excellent job in covering the Panthers wideouts, so Newton rarely has open receivers deep even if he did have the time to look downfield.
The referees called Brandon LaFell for offensive pass interference, which marked the second time that Carolina was flagged for that infraction on the day.
The next two plays of the drive saw Newton sacked twice, with the second sack resulting in a safety.
If you hadn't called the game over already, it is safe to call it after the safety.
Newton was able to guide the Panthers down the field for a garbage-time touchdown, but it was encouraging to see the offense move the ball again after three quarters of futility.
Third Quarter: F
After the Panthers defense forced the Broncos to go three and out, their offense returned the favor and also failed to convert for a first down.
The offense missed out on a good opportunity to make a statement at the start of the second half, but the interior offensive linemen were unable keep Kevin Vickerson from sacking Newton.
The Panthers offense is nothing short of a mess, and the Broncos pass-rushers are living in the Carolina backfield.
At this point, the Panthers must run their two-minute offense to at least make the game look more competitive.
Second Quarter: C-
After Trindon Holliday returned a punt for a touchdown, the Panthers offense failed to do anything to swing the momentum back in their favor.
In fact, the Panthers failed to gain a single yard on their first drive of the second quarter. Jonathan Steward was tackled for no gain on a run and Newton threw two incompletions that were targeted for Steve Smith.
On the next drive, Louis Murphy was flagged for offensive pass interference. The penalty wiped out what would have been a 34-yard gain for Murphy.
The infraction from Murphy put the Panthers in an unfavorable down-and-distance situation, and they wound up punting the ball away two plays later.
If Newton and the offense cannot sustain drives, then this game could get away from the Panthers very quickly.
Carolina's two-minute offense sparked the unit, as they picked up two first downs and got Justin Medlock into field-goal range.
First Quarter: B
The Panthers ran each of their first three plays from the shotgun formation, with Newton completing one pass to Brandon LaFell. The drive ended when Von Miller sacked Newton for a six-yard loss on 3rd-and-4.
The Broncos are quick on defense and can be vulnerable against a strong rushing attack between the tackles.
On Carolina's second drive, the offensive line gave Newton ample time in the pocket. He rewarded them by completing four passes including a touchdown to Greg Olsen.
On the touchdown drive, Olsen caught three passes for a combined 46 yards.
The coaching staff also called a successful screen pass to Mike Tolbert, so I expect them to continue looking for in the passing game.
Newton was stripped by Elvis Dumervil at the end of the quarter, but luckily it was recovered by the Panthers.
Overall Game Grade: C+
The Panthers defense held the Broncos offense to just two touchdowns, with the other two touchdowns coming via special teams and an interception return.
The most impressive stat posted by the defense is how well they did on third down, as Peyton Manning and the Broncos only converted three of their 13 third downs.
The Panthers also forced two fumbles, which gave Newton and the offense a chance to change the tide of the game.
Ultimately, the offense failed to take advantage of the opportunities given to them by the defense. As a result, the Panthers were blown out at home and surrendered a season-high in points allowed.
Fourth Quarter: C-
The Panthers defense began the fourth quarter by keeping the Broncos out of the end zone from a 1st-and-goal situation.
It was a very impressive stand from the defense, as the unit is still playing its hardest despite the large deficit.
Now that the Broncos are up three scores in the fourth quarter, the defense is playing just to save face. However, the defense has played a solid overall game; two of the Broncos touchdowns came on special teams and defense.
After Newton and the offense drove down the field to make it a two-score game, the Broncos had no problem scoring another touchdown to further ice the contest.
Third Quarter: C+
The Panthers defense forced the Broncos to go three and out on their first drive. This was a big stop because it gave Cam Newton and the offense a chance to make it a one-score game early in the third quarter.
Charles Johnson made a big play, as he strip-sacked Peyton Manning and the Panthers recovered. It was Carolina's first turnover of the game, and gave the offense another chance to swing the momentum in its favor.
The Panthers didn't surrender a touchdown in the third quarter, but they saw their offense give the Broncos another touchdown to cushion their lead.
The grade for the defense would be higher, but the Broncos finished the quarter with a 1st-and-goal and will most likely be scoring points to open the quarter.
Second Quarter: B
The Panthers defense saw the Broncos put up seven points on special teams. Their defense also had to contend with the poor play from the offense after their first drive, as they have been put in unfavorable field position twice.
The Broncos were unable to score a touchdown on offense during the second quarter, which is an improvement on the first quarter.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense have moved the ball effectively, but the Panthers defense hasn't allowed them to break the game open.
First Quarter: C
On the Denver Broncos first drive, Carolina's defense was up to the task, tackling Willis McGahee on a 3rd-and-1 to force a punt.
If the Panthers defense can get off the field on third downs, then they will surprise the majority of the league's audience.
Carolina's defense forced the Broncos to punt after surrendering only one first down on the next drive.
The Broncos finally got something going on their third drive, as Peyton Manning found Demaryius Thomas for a 32-yard completion down the middle of the field.
The Panthers defense was sent onto the field with bad field position, and the Broncos made them pay for it.
After shutting down Manning and the Broncos on their first two drives, they were steamrolled for a touchdown on the third. The drive culminated with a Manning to Stokely completion for a 10-yard touchdown.
We all knew the Broncos were going to score points, so it will be up to Newton and the Panthers offense to keep up.
Special Teams: F
Overall Game Grade: F
This game was a special teams disaster, as the Broncos returned a punt for a touchdown and Justin Medlock missed a kick that would have made the game competitive in the third quarter.
Both plays took the wind out of the Panthers' collective sails, while also bolstering the Broncos lead.
If the Panthers were going to upset the Broncos, they likely would have needed to be the team that made a couple of game-changing plays in their favor.
Nothing went right today, but the awful performance from special teams only made matters worse.
Fourth Quarter: C
Things were silent on the special teams front in the fourth quarter, but they made their share of mistakes early in the game.
Third Quarter: D
The Panthers punt coverage team is really struggling to contain Trindon Holliday, as he returned a punt for 21 yards to set the Broncos up with good filed position.
Carolina cannot afford its special teams unit to allow the Broncos to gain an even bigger advantage, although this game is getting close to being out of reach anyway.
Second Quarter: F
The punt coverage team failed at the onset of the second quarter, as Trindon Holliday returned a punt for a 76-yard touchdown.
The Panthers cannot afford to lose the special teams battle against a superior Broncos football team.
Justin Medlock missed a 42-yard field goal that would have made it a one-score game to cap off what was a horrible quarter for the special teams.
First Quarter: B
Brad Nortman booted his first punt 50 yards and the coverage unit tackled the returner inside Denver's 20-yard line.
On the Panthers' first punt return, Captain Munnerlyn showed great playmaking ability as he took the ball upfield for a six-yard gain.
While a six-yard return is nothing to get excited about, Munnerlyn's speed provides an opportunity to make big plays on special teams.
On Nortman's second punt, he booted the ball 61 yards, which greatly helped the Panthers field position.
Overall Game Grade: F
The coaching staff is ultimately responsible for the performance of the team as a whole, and that performance was way below par against the Broncos.
Ron Rivera has yet to do anything that proves that he is worthy of continuing his tenure as Carolina's head coach.
This is only the second time that the Panthers have been blown out this season, with both of their woeful performances coming at home.
If Rivera cannot find a way to win games at home with the young talent that he has, then it is time to find someone that can.
Fourth Quarter: F
The Panthers got blown out at home by a good football team but that isn't a valid excuse for the coaching staff.
Sure, the Broncos will likely win the AFC West this season, but Carolina should have played better at home.
Performances like this are inexcusable for a team like the Panthers, who have so much young talent on their roster.
Third Quarter: D
Carolina has been unable to move the ball effectively and is making far too many mistakes on offense and special teams.
Since the Panthers were the underdogs coming into the game, it was imperative for them to play close to a perfect game.
Through three quarters, Carolina hasn't been decent, let alone anything near perfect.
Second Quarter: C-
The coaching staff should take notice of how well the offense moved the ball on its final drive of the half and call similar plays in the second half.
If the offense cannot keep Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense on the bench, then it will be almost impossible for the Panthers to make a comeback in the second half.
John Fox is certainly outcoaching Ron Rivera in his return to Carolina.
First Quarter: B-
The Panthers had a decent quarter overall, but the momentum was clearly with the Broncos as the quarter ended.
The coaching staff needs to continue to call plays that put Newton in favorable situations, because he will be less likely to turn it over then.
This game is very important for Ron Rivera and his coaching staff, as a win would help to win back the fanbase a little bit.