Grading the Carolina Panthers for Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
D+ Quarterback: Backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke moved the ball well at times, including on a game-opening touchdown drive, and it’s difficult to evaluate him fully because of his second-quarter injury. Three interceptions and red zone issues bring this grade down.
A Running backs: Christian McCaffrey had 101 rushing yards on 21 carries. He also broke the single-season running back receptions record (104), finishing the game with 106 catches on the season. McCaffrey also set the single-season receptions record for the franchise.
D Receivers: Heinicke isn’t the only one to blame for red zone issues. Tight end Ian Thomas had a nice game, and Jarius Wright rallied from an early fumble to rack up seven catches for 69 yards. But there were several drops throughout and an early mis-run route by DJ Moore.
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F Offensive line: The Panthers’ line continue to stuggle. Heinicke was sacked twice and hit seven times.
D Defensive line: Defensive tackle Kyle Love brings this grade up marginally with his strip-sack and fumble recovery. Carolina struggled to get pressure, Falcons running back Brian Hill rushed for 115 yards and defensive end Efe Obada drew a crucial penalty on third-and-5 that gave Atlanta a first down.
C Linebackers: After a dominant Week 15 performance, the Panthers’ linebackers didn’t quite look like themselves on Sunday. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis each finished with six tackles.
D Secondary: Cornerback James Bradberry had two athletic pass breakups among his four passes defensed but was beaten in the end zone by Julio Jones for Atlanta’s first touchdown. An error by Mike Adams led to a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the third quarter.
B Special teams: Chandler Catanzaro hit a 50-yard field goal and Kenjon Barner had some nice returns — but was absolutely housed on one of them by Falcons punter Matt Bosher, which earned him some teasing in the locker room after the game.
B Coaching: The game was called pretty well despite the circumstances — Heinicke hurt and under constant pressure, and player errors on defense that led to big passing plays over the top. Continued losses, however, can’t earn A’s.