This could go down as one of the best performances by quarterback Cam Newton with the Carolina Panthers. It certainly wasn't pretty, in particular the first half when Newton threw two interceptions and had less than 50 passing yards. However, he bounced back and played incredibly in the second half and led the team back from a 13-point deficit. The Seahawks have done a good job shutting Newton down but it looked like he got over the hump in this game.
In addition to Newton's strong performance, the Panthers' offense got a strong game from Jonathan Stewart for the first time this year. This was surprising considering how well the Seahawks defense has played this year, as they ranked in the Top 10 entering this game. Stewart grinded out 78 rushing yards on 20 carries and crossed the goal-line for the first time this year with two scores. The rest of the running backs were quiet as Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert combined for only four carries and 10 rushing yards but they didn't need much from the other backs as Stewart got the job done moving this offense with tough runs.
Newton did a good job spreading the ball around as four wide receivers caught passes, however none of them really took the game over with Philly Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Devin Funchess leading the wide receivers with two receptions. One thing that was apparent in this game was that the team is determined to get Funchess more involved coming out of the bye week as he was second in targets behind only Greg Olsen. The Panthers knew this position could be a concern without Kelvin Benjamin but they may not have realized it would be this rough.
Greg Olsen was one of the key players to help the Panthers grab a victory in Seattle. Last year, he was one of Newton's favorite targets and this year he seems to be his only target. He finished the game leading the team in receptions (6), yards (131), targets (11) to go along with the go-ahead score in the final minute of the game. This is now the third game out of the last four that Olsen has had double digit targets, with at least six receptions and 70 receiving yards. There is no reason not to think this trend won't continue.
The Panthers offensive line put together another strong performance, this time against a good defensive line that can get after the quarterback. After giving up a sack early to Bruce Irvin, this group settled down a bit and for the most part gave Newton time to make the necessary play. The best part about this game though was the fact that they were able to open up some running lanes for Stewart. The pass protection has never really been in question this year but the offensive line hasn't been able to get much push in running the ball. Hopefully this is a sign of better things to come for this group but for now this is the line's best all-around performance this season.
The past two games this group has been playing much and the impressive part about it is they have done it without Charles Johnson and Jared Allen for most of it. The team was able to get pressure, not only from inside with Kawann Short who had two sacks, but also on the edge. Wes Horton got the start in place of the injured Allen and registered a sack. In addition to Horton, Ryan Delaire had a strong game finishing with five QB hurries and had a sack that was negated due to a defensive holding penalty in the secondary. Once the team gets their two veteran pass rushers back from injury, this group has a ton of potential.
It was a welcomed sight for the Panthers to have Luke Kuechly back in the middle of this defense. He picked up right where he left off before the concussion, leading the team with 14 tackles. Meanwhile, Thomas Davis finished second on the team in tackles and registered another sack, which was the second of the season. Davis has never been used as a pass rusher and is already halfway to his career high of four. This has been what Panthers' fans have come to expect but it doesn't take away from how great their performance was against the Seahawks.
It was a mixed bag from the Panthers' secondary against the Seahawks. Russell Wilson did only throw 241 passing yards, completing 60% of his passes and one passing touchdown however the majority of the damage was done by one player, tight end Jimmy Graham who finished with eight receptions for 140 yards. Of the remaining 101 passing yards, 40 of them came on one play when the Seahawks connected on a flea-flicker to Ricardo Lockette. The star of this group though was once again Josh Norman, who only had one tackle. However, he has earned a reputation and quarterback are going to stop looking his way as much and this is a trend that should continue in 2015.