By Ted Fleming
The Panthers won a game on Sunday and while that may not be earth-shattering news around the NFL, it may have just turned around a franchise.
In a battle of winless teams, the New York Football Giants and a huge throng of their fans invaded Bank of America Stadium on a warm and sunny day, but when it was over they all must have felt like they got struck by lightning after they were embarrassed 38-0. For the Panthers it was their first shutout since 2008 and the most one-sided victory in the history of the franchise.
The score did not tell the whole story. New York’s offense could not solve Carolina’s defense, managing just 150 net yards and 10 first downs all afternoon. On the other side of the ball the Giants were defenseless and saying it was mediocre would be giving them too much credit. They were awful.
So does that diminish the Panthers first win in three tries? Absolutely not. In fact, on this day they might have been able to knock off anyone in the league.
Coaching Grade: A
Each and every coach on the team deserves kudos, from the coordinators right down to the last assistant. They knew the Giants were an explosive team and formulated a monster of a game plan from the offense to the defense to special teams. The only reason this grade is not an A+ is the presence of some questionable calls by offensive coordinator Mike Shula who insists on running the read-option right into the teeth of the defensive line. Not sure if the read-option is right for a team that has so may other ways to move the ball.
Quarterback Grade: A
What more can you say. Cam Newton ran (45 yards, a 6.4 average). He threw (15 completions for 223 yards). He gave away footballs (four) to fans after touchdowns. Newton was having a ball with his patented first-down signals and Superman imitation. He was the field general that guided the Panthers to an improbable thumping of the Giants. At one time – early in the game – he led the team in rushing, not exactly how you would draw it up, but his legs kept drives alive on broken plays and designed runs. Fans might want to use those tickets to future games if this becomes a habit.
Offense Grade: A
There were some questions about the conservative play calling in the first two games, but not in this one. The line did a superb job giving DeAngelo Williams a chance to run for 120 of the team’s 194 rushing yards. Newton and fullback Mike Tolbert each had a touchdown on the ground while Brandon LaFell reeled in a pair of scores and Ted Ginn added one of his own via the pass. Overall the Panthers hung 402 total yards on New York and more importantly, when given good field position by repeated bad punts, didn’t let too many chances slip away.
Defense Grade: A+
If there is one area where the Panthers continue to excel it is on defense, especially the front seven. They seemed to get better each week a year ago and that trend continues in 2013. The Panthers secondary was in shambles and you would have thought Giants quarterback Eli Manning would have shredded them, but it never happened.
Greg Hardy led the sack-happy Panthers with three of a team’s seven by five different players, but it was the constant pressure that kept Manning from delivering anything downfield on a regular basis as he was just 12-23 for a meager 119 yards and a 49.0 rating.
This was the sixth shutout in team history.
Red Zone efficiency has always been a challenge for the Panthers; however, they were a perfect 3-for-3 in this game.
The seven sacks tied a team record.
Greg Hardy came within one sack of tying the single-game team mark held by Charles Johnson.
Hardy also led the team in tackles with eight, two more than Luke Kuechly.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.