Cam Newton got off to the hottest start of his young career and completed his first 11 passes in this one, a career best. He finished with his second best career completion percentage as well of 81% and went 21-26 for 217-yards and one score. Right from the get-go, Newton showed solid touch passing, completing throw after throw to a slew of wide open targets. The Panthers quarterback also contributed on the ground by converting another touchdown but rushed for just 23-yards. This game also marks Newton’s 30th performance with both a passing and rushing touchdown leaving him one shy of tying Steve Young’s record mark of 31. He was flustered by the blitz more than usual here but all in all, had another trademark game moving the chains and putting up points to secure the W for Carolina.
For a while, the Panthers’ chances of extending their streak of games rushing over 100-yards seemed bleak but that turned around quick with a few solid drives in the second half. Early on, Jonathan Stewart was not able to do much and the Titans defense clamped down fairly well to stop the Panthers number one rushing attack from getting anything going. When it matter late in the third and into the fourth though, Stewart found some room to run and actually finished with a nice day in the stat column rushing for 91-yards and one score on 22 carries.
With Newton throwing darts it would be safe to assume that the receivers did well but that wasn’t the case as the group was fairly quiet without much to show in this contest. Ted Ginn led with a pedestrian four catches for 45-yards and Funchess followed with two for 41-yards making a solid deep grab to help set up the Panthers’ second score of the day. They made the receptions when it was needed but weren’t Newton’s primary targets in this one.
The tight ends were the benefactors of Newton’s solid day through the air as both Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson contributed with a number of key receptions. Olsen started out extremely hot as Newton’s go-to guy getting open and quickly racked up big yardage that helped the Carolina offense score on their first two possessions of the game. But Dickson wouldn’t let Olsen have all the fun as he contributed with a few key catches of his own including a wide open touchdown score in the second quarter. Both finished with respectable stat lines as Olsen caught eight passes for 80-yards and Dickson threw in three catches for 21-yards and his score. A solid combined effort from the tight ends in Tennessee.
This unit has certainly seen better days than this one. The Titans brought the blitz constantly in the second half and it looked as though the offensive line had little to no answer for them. They gave up five total sacks on the day and seven quarterback hits and during moments in the second half Newton was unable to evade the pressure. In the run game they started slow but then were able to get things going and once they adjusted to the blitz they managed it fairly well. Overall though, it was not a strong performance from this group by any means.
The defensive line continued its up and down performances and after a big day last week they cooled down a bit here. They still played solidly, even if it doesn’t look that way from the stat sheet. Kony Ealy notched the lone sack in this one and kept his hot play going and the team recorded just four quarterback hits but they were able to flush Marcus Mariota out of the pocket on multiple occasions and keep him out of rhythm for much of this contest. They also played a big part in holding the Titans to just 64 rushing yards as they clogged the running lanes well and made a number of big tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage, most notably in the middle with Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei.
It was a puzzling day for the linebacking corps as the tackle totals weren’t where they usually are for this unit. Regardless of tackle stats though, Luke Kuechly remained a prominent presence and did his part throughout. Shaq Thompson laid a big hit early on for a loss and AJ Klein had a few nice tackles on both special teams and defense but the most shocking performance may have come from Thomas Davis who did not record a single tackle in this contest with a lone quarterback hit being his only statistic. It was certainly a quiet day for this normally loud unit but still a solid outing nonetheless.
The secondary was up to its usual tricks in this one and had another great performance against a rookie quarterback. Through much of this matchup they were able to lock down a subpar, young receiving corps as they were expected too. They gave up a number of big gains in two of the Titans early drives but quickly fixed that issue and locked down the Tennessee offense in the second half locking down targets like Delanie Walker and Dorial Green-Beckham and giving Mariota little to work with. Kurt Coleman once again left his mark racking up five tackles, one pass deflection and another interception on the year and Josh Norman delivered some nice hits and set the tone defensively.
Carolina’s special teams were on point against Tennessee with everyone contributing in their respective ways. Graham Gano made both of his field goal tries from 48 and 19 yards and Brad Nortman had another strong day with an average of 47.3-yards per punt and helping out the field position battle. Ted Ginn was the most notable special teams contributor though as he gained solid yardage on almost every one of his punt returns (15.3-yards per return) and even took one to the house that was called back due to a block in the back penalty.