It was an all-around awful performance by the Panthers defense and there was only two players who I would say actually showed up to play. One was defensive end Charles Johnson who awoke from an early season funk who had his third straight game with a sack. He also had six tackles, one of them for a loss, and one QB hit.
That was really it for the production from the defensive line as no other player had more than three tackles, no one had a tackle for a loss, QB hit or sack. One of the biggest reasons for the Panthers struggle on defense this year is their inability to get to the quarterback and control the line of scrimmage. When teams don’t win in the trenches, it makes the weaknesses of the rest of the defense that much more apparent.
The only other player that had a performance worth noting was linebacker Thomas Davis who finished with seven tackles, two of them for a loss, a sack, and two QB hits. The outside linebacker was flying around and doing everything he could to make plays. However, he didn’t have much help from the rest of his teammates, especially when Luke Kuechly was ejected from the game.
As for the Kuechly ejection these are my thoughts: I don’t believe he intended to hit the ref as there was a scrum and Kuechly had already been pulled from the pile by one Green Bay Packer. When the ref came over to pull him up, I believe he thought it was another Green Bay player and acted accordingly but when he saw it was the ref he stopped almost instantly.
However, the NFL has a zero tolerance policy in regards to players coming into physical contact with refs and by the letter of the rule he had to be ejected. It was a bad situation, one that seemed unavoidable, but the refs had no choice but to eject him.
I really didn’t want to give a grade for this group because everyone that watched the game knew it was atrocious. The Packers wide receivers got open almost at will and it seemed Aaron Rodgers had multiple options open every play.
The biggest issue with this group is giving up the big plays. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are two of the top wide receivers in the game today and they are going to get their catches but as a defender it is your responsibility to keep the play in front of you and keep them from taking catches for big yards. Nelson and Cobb both had receptions over 45 yards, Nelson taking his for a touchdown.
In the special teams unit, Graham Gano wasn’t called on too much but when his number was called he did exactly what was expected. He made a 33-yard field goal and two extra point.
The player that had to earn his paycheck yesterday was punter Brad Nortman who was called on seven times. He averaged 53.9 yards per punt with two punts downed inside the 20 and two going into the endzone for a touchback, which is not a good thing for a punter. In the end it was an average day for the special teams unit.