Ron Rivera is 1-3 for the third year in his three year head coaching career. I'm starting to see a pattern developing.
On with the grades.
Initially, they looked like they may roll right over the Cardinals. Cam Newton was throwing crisp passes, Brandon Lafell and Greg Olsen looked to have career days, and all was well. Then, the drops started happening. Steve Smith suddenly developed a case of stone hands. Apparently it was contagious because Brandon Lafell was soon feeling the effects. If not for the dropped passes, the Panthers could have been up by a wide margin.
In the second half, the Cardinals brought pressure on Cam Newton and the offense folded. Mike Shula was unable to counter the Cardinals half time adjustments. We watched as the league's longest developing passing plays were anchored by a suspect offensive line. Not an ideal situation to say the least.
The result? 358 yards and only 6 points.
Strike up the offensive woes to poor player execution and terrible coaching. It takes both to look so very bad.
Offensive Grade: F
Before slop time in the 4th quarter, the Panthers defense had held the Cardinals offense to 13 points. To hold the home team to 13 points should win you the game. Luke Kuechly continues to look like a pro bowl player as he leads this defense. Robert Lester appears to be a legitimate safety in this league, making him the biggest offseason bargain for the Panthers.
While they could have done more, they did enough for a competent NFL offense to win the game.
Defensive Grade: B
Are you in the market for a new Panthers Jersey? I suggest Graham Gano. He has been the most reliable point scorer on the team this season. A field goal penalty jeopardized his second field goal attempt. but Gano still nailed it after moving back ten yards. This kid is like ice.
Special Teams Grade: B
If you look at this game in a bubble and choose to ignore the past few seasons you could say that player execution lost this game for the Panthers. You would be partially right. If you want a more complete outlook, you put this loss in the context of Rivera's entire career.
Under Rivera, the Panthers have consistently been unprepared, undisciplined, and unfocused. After all, that is what player execution is all about. If a player is not focused with clarity on the task at hand, he will not succeed.
This falls squarely on the shoulders of Ron Rivera. The Panthers are a reflection of Ron, and it isn't pretty.
Coaching Grade: D
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