Report Card: Panthers vs Bears

The Panthers offense gets decent marks, however the defense and special teams might have to repeat a grade next year after the performance they had against the Bears.

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Cam Newton completed 27 of 46 passes for 374 yards with one touchdown and one costly interception that was returned for a touchdown when he threw into double coverage. You can argue Legedu Naanee should have made that catch, but that's a tough throw to complete. Still, Newton was amazing at times and has been simply brilliant over the first four games. If everyone played at his level, this team would be 4-0. Steve Smith has been stellar and now has almost as many yards in four games (530) as he did all of last season (554) with Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore at the helm. The offensive line did not allow a sack for the second straight week despite the 46 pass attempts. It's hard to complain too much when a team puts up 543 yards on offense and scores 29 points, but clearly the red-zone offense has to get better.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus -- The Panthers made big strides in the running game Sunday, rushing for a season-high 169 yards on 26 carries, an impressive 6.5-yard average. DeAngelo Williams had 82 yards, which is more than he had his previous three games combined. Jonathan Stewart also ran well, carrying eight times for 52 yards. Cam Newton scored twice on the ground and now has all four of Carolina's touchdowns this season.

PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- Considering the Panthers were without Chris Gamble, this was a pretty decent effort. Jay Cutler was limited to 102 yards passing on 9 of 17 completions and intercepted once. Maybe the Panthers should have brought more men in the box to stop the run though and challenged Cutler to throw deep. A solid game for Darius Butler, who started in place of Gamble. There are some things to like about this kid.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- Wow, this was ugly. The Panthers allowed the league's 31st-ranked offense to rush for 224 yards on 31 carries, a 7.2-yard average, and two touchdowns. The Bears dominated the line of scrimmage, and blew open gaping holes in Carolina's defense. You can expect other teams to follow that strategy against the Panthers in the future. We all knew this was a week area and it finally got exposed. The loss of defensive tackle Ron Edwards and linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are beginning to show. Matt Forte ran for a career-high 205 yards after being held to two the previous week by the Packers.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- The Panthers allowed a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 73-yard kickoff return to Devin Hester. Olindo Mare had a 34-yard field goal blocked and missed a 52-yarder short. Also, Jerome Felton was flagged for a block in the back on a kickoff return, which forced the Panthers to start one drive at their own 8-yard line and preceded Newton's pick six. On top of that, Carolina's return units did nothing spectacular and Mike Goodson was eventually replaced by Jordan Pugh. Armanti Edwards continues to be average at best as a returner but that could have something to do with the blocking. Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy couldn't have slept well Sunday night.

COACHING: C -- Aside from the unforgiveable sin of punting directly to Hester, the Panthers continue to run Naanee out with the starters and throw to him in crucial situations. He's simply not a playmaker. The fourth-and-10 call where they threw to Naanee at the end of the game was a head-scratcher. Kicking a 52-yarder into the wind was another questionable call, although if he made it it would have given Carolina the lead. At some point, the red-zone penalties have to end. On the bright side, the Panthers made a concerted effort to run the ball more.


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