Quarterback: B+ Cam Newton had a very shaky first half, as he couldn't get his team into the end zone and threw an interception that resulted in a field goal. However, he rebounded quite nicely in the final thirty minutes, using his feet to score on the Panthers' first drive (racking up five of what turned out to be 51 rushing yards), then using his arm to throw the game winner. Though he only had a 60.6 QBR, Cam showed his ability to deliver when called for, converting on a few 4th downs and escaping a few sacks. This new fight-until-the-whistle-blows approach to the game shows how much he has matured over the past few seasons.
Running Backs: B- These guys have been awfully quiet recently, rushing for 220 total yards in the last three games. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both had 31 yards on ten and seven carries, respectively. Mike Tolbert had 23 yards on four carries. When you have a dual threat quarterback like Cam Newton, it's fair to say your running backs are probably going to fly under the radar. Still, the difference between a good running back and a great running back is what he can do with a certain number of carries. So far, the Panthers' running backs haven't exactly made the most of their handful of opportunities.
Wide Receivers: B+ Steve Smith caught five passes for 69 yards, Brandon LaFell caught two for 36, and TE Greg Olsen caught five for 34, including the game-winning touchdown. The only thing that kept these guys from cracking an A was the fact that each of them was targeted a respective eight, five, and nine times. The game probably wouldn't have been this close if they had managed to catch a few more passes.
Offensive Line: B- These guys allowed two sacks and three other TFLs, not to mention all of the Swiss cheese moments that would have (and SHOULD have) been sacks, except for the fact that Cam Newton has EXCEPTIONAL scrambling ability. Now that I think of it, maybe I was a little hard on the running backs. Who knows? They might have been able to pick up some good yardage if the O Line could stay on their blocks. Defensive Line: B+ Two sacks, including the one that ended the game, made this a decent outing for the D Line. While they didn't do quite as much in the way of tackling, they made room for the linebackers to do that. And really, isn't that the idea?
Linebackers: A- Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly both had six tackles (including a sack for Davis), and the entire linebacking corps completely shut down the Dolphins' run game, holding them to just one more yard than Cam Newton. However, I do believe that Kuechly got lucky for the second consecutive game, as he clearly went helmet-to-helmet with Rishard Matthews, but the flag was waved off. Had the official made the call, it would have moved the Dolphins down to the one yard line and given them a first down, which more than likely would have resulted in a touchdown. Bottom line: Kuechly needs to stay disciplined, or we could see a repeat of the Bills game. This late in the season, one game lost because of a penalty could have major playoff implications. Secondary: D+ All I want to know is, who let Mike Wallace get open in the final seconds? These guys got darn lucky that the pass was only just overthrown, otherwise Wallace would have done exactly what he did in the first quarter. Like I just said, we can't afford these kinds of mistakes at this point in the season. The fact that Ryan Tannehill was allowed the throw for 310 yards is an indication of a potentially crippling weakness. What happened to the guys that held Colin Kaepernick to double digits two weeks ago? Granted, playing football in 80 degree weather (in black jerseys, no less) may not have been the best thing for their focus, but they still need to get their act together. That said, I do like how Captain Munnerlyn led the team in tackles, (9) with one occurring behind the line.
Special Teams: A- There must've been a dispute between Graham Gano and one of his linemen, because he kicked what would've been a 35 yard field goal right into the back of his helmet. However, he still delivered twice from long range (52 and 46 yards), which is something that fans should not take for granted. Brad Nortman delivered another excellent performance, with an average of 56.7 yards per punt, with a long of 72 (not a typo). Ted Ginn got one chance to return a punt and a kickoff (41 and 17 yards), and the Panthers allowed about 20 yards per kick return and 10 yards per punt return. ~Matt Bowling