This week, the stat line backed up Cam Newton’s MVP-like performance as the quarterback threw for 297-yards and three scores and added another impressive day on the ground with 57-yards and a touchdown. All game long Newton was able to carve up a weak Packers defense through the air and picked up solid yardage in the run game to keep drives alive. The quarterback went deep more than usual to exploit a poor Green Bay secondary and it resulted in numerous long completions, two of them going for six points. His interception in the fourth quarter was disastrously awful and a few throws that should have been made were off the mark but by and large, Newton dominated and helped the Panthers remain unbeaten.
The passing game was on point in this one but the running backs certainly did their part. Jonathan Stewart had a solid day rushing for 66-yards on 20 carries and continued his tough running ways pushing the pile a number of times and helping to provide the offense with balance. Fozzy Whittaker rushed just twice but picked up a solid big down to keep one particular drive going and put them into Green Bay territory.
What a game it was for the highly scrutinized Panthers receiving corps. With the offensive game plan looking to the passing game more than usual, the group took advantage and capitalized on the opportunities. The ball was spread around all day with Jerricho Cotchery picking up some big chunks of yardage, Philly Brown scoring on a great deep ball late in the first half and Ted Ginn adding in a key 20-yard completion to the mix. But the Devin Funchess coming out party was the real story from this unit. The rookie made a great catch in the second quarter to set up a score and then in the fourth, caught a 14-yard slant and muscled his way into the end zone for his first career touchdown. An impressive day from Funchess and the entire receiving corps made the difference in this victory performance.
An excellent day in the passing game meant a good one from Greg Olsen as well. The tight end made his mark to the tune of four catches for 66-yards and a touchdown. Olsen made his usual big plays with a long gain on a one handed grab on the offense’s first drive and almost had another touchdown when he beat the Green Bay safety up the seam but was overthrown by Newton. Nonetheless, Olsen played his part and did his thing yet again on Sunday.
Scoring 37 points meant the offensive line certainly must have been on top of their game and that was exactly the case here. The unit provided the offense with the necessary push up front all day long and gave Newton more than enough time in the pocket to make plays. Mike Remmers played very well again and so did Amini Silatolu who was filling in at left guard. Overall the group didn’t give up a single sack and looked great against an above average defensive front.
The defensive line did exactly what they needed to on Sunday and gave consistent pressure throughout. The line racked up three of the teams five sacks with one apiece for Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei and Kony Ealy. They were able to put constant pressure on Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers and forced him from the pocket and into trouble on multiple occasions where he had to throw hurriedly or out of bounds. Ealy had quite a day forcing a fumble and almost getting a second to go with his sack. Disrupting Rodgers is a must against Green Bay and the Carolina defensive front was able to do just that.
At this point it should go without saying that the Panthers linebackers are always going to be key cogs in the team’s performance. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis were all over the field and led the defense with 15 combined tackles between the two (nine for Kuechly, six for Davis). Davis contributed in other ways though notching a sack and bringing added pressure with the blitz on a few instances and also made the game-saving interception to halt Green Bay’s comeback attempt. Kuechly was knocked out for a few snaps with a sprained ankle but got it taped and returned to the field and should be okay moving forward.
The defensive backs saw mixed results in this matchup. Outside of the one Packers’ score in the first half the group did well and shut down the Green Bay wide receivers giving Rodgers little to work with. But in the second half they gave up quite a bit in the passing game and were unable to play the same lockdown coverage. Kurt Coleman had another great game with six tackles and a sack, Charles Tillman recorded eight tackles and forced one of his trademark fumbles while Roman Harper played every snap and was a big factor. Bene Benwikere was picked on for much of this game and did not fare so well and Josh Norman’s one poor play turned an interception opportunity into a big gain for the Packers.
Kicker Graham Gano connected on three of four field goal tries from 20, 49 and 22-yards but missed a 43-yarder badly. Punter Brad Nortman averaged 48-yards on six punts and had a mix of good and bad results. And special team aces Ben Jacobs, Teddy Williams and David Mayo each did well in coverage with some solid tackles to prevent any runbacks.