Carolina Panthers 30, Arizona Cardinals 20
Here are the highest-graded players and top takeaways from the Panthers' Week 8 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Quarterback grade: Cam Newton, 69.4
Cam Newton impresses on ground, not through air
Newton made a far bigger impact as a runner in this game than he did as a passer, picking up 43 yards and forcing a missed tackle on seven designed runs. As a passer, his 14-for-27 box score doesn't quite do him justice, with four dropped passes and one throwaway accounting for five of those incompletions, but he also didn't complete any of the three passes he attempted traveling 20 yards or further downfield. Pressure definitely hurt him when it got there, with his NFL passer rating dropping from 88.8 without pressure to 45.8 under pressure.
Top offensive grades
HB Jonathan Stewart, 83.3
G Trai Turner, 81.6
C Gino Gradkowski, 81.0
G Andrew Norwell, 79.4
FB Mike Tolbert, 74.3
Receivers don't help Newton out
While Newton wasn't great as a passer, he was also somewhat let down by his receivers in this one, with four dropped passes from 27 passing attempts. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin wasn't one of the guilty parties, hauling in both of the catchable passes thrown his way, including one for 50 yards. However, with Ted Ginn, Devin Funchess, Corey Brown, and Fozzy Whittaker dropping a pass apiece, it definitely hurt the Panthers' offense in a game that ended closer than it looked like it would after the first quarter.
Top defensive grades
DI Kawann Short, 87.8
ED Charles Johnson, 77.7
DI Star Lotulelei, 77.5
ED Kony Ealy, 75.4
DI Kyle Love, 73.4
Carolina defensive line wreaks havoc
Interior defender Kawann Short was the main beneficiary of Arizona offensive line’s struggles, as he recorded two sacks, one quarterback hit. and two quarterback hurries. It illustrates the creativity of the Carolina coaching staff and the type of success the Panthers had rushing the passer on Sunday that nine different Panther players recorded at least one pressure. However, while Carolina was good at bringing the heat in the first half, their secondary was exposed in the second half once they let Carson Palmer and the Cardinals' offense to get into a rhythm. Furthermore, the Panthers had quite a few coverage busts as well, including the one on J.J. Nelson’s first touchdown reception.
Quarterback grade: Carson Palmer, 85.0
Carson Palmer effective despite pressure
Due to the Panthers’ early lead and the lack of success in running the football, the Cardinals had to rely on Palmer more heavily than what they likely expected before the game. However, the veteran QB did not let them down, and did a very good job of picking the Panthers' defense apart with intermediate passes and taking what the defense gave him. While Palmer failed to complete either of his three passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, he completed 10 of his 14 passes that went between 10 and 19 yards from the line of scrimmage. Overall, while he did have two unfortunate turnovers, Palmer actually had one of the better games of his 2016 season against Carolina.
Top offensive grades
OT Jared Veldheer, 81.9
C A.Q. Shipley, 75.8
WR Brittan Golden, 72.0
WR John Brown, 71.9
WR J.J. Nelson, 71.0
Cardinals' offensive line struggles
Arizona lost the battle in the trenches, which was something they could not overcome. The Cardinals had to give up on running the football relatively quickly since the Panthers jumped out to a big lead early on, and also because the line failed to create space for running back David Johnson. As a result, Johnson averaged only 1.3 yards before contact on his 10 carries. Furthermore, Arizona was unable to protect quarterback Carson Palmer, especially in the first half. Surprisingly, it was left guard Mike Iupati who surrendered the most pressures, as he allowed two sacks, two quarterback hits, and two quarterback hurries en route to a 35.3 grade.
Top defensive grades
S Tony Jefferson, 87.5
DI Calais Campbell, 81.4
S D.J. Swearinger, 80.0
ED Markus Golden, 73.8
LB Deone Bucannon, 73.5
Big impact from Jefferson
In a losing effort, safety Tony Jefferson made an impact both in coverage and against the run. His impact in the passing game came by the way of a pass breakup on 3rd-and-1 with 6:22 left in the second quarter. Against the run, he made two tackles resulting in a defensive stop, and also made the Cardinals' biggest play of the game on defense. With Carolina trying to run out the clock on 1st-and-10 with 3:29 left in the game, he forced—and then recovered—a fumble by running back Jonathan Stewart. The play didn't lead to a Arizona comeback, but it did give them the opportunity before the offense turned the ball back over.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Kawann Short, 87.8
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