Panthers vs. Vikings: Grades from the game

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

Cam Newton played one of his best games, but the grades from Pro Football Focus might surprise you.

The Carolina Panthers handled a team they should have beaten -- this hasn't always been the case in 2013, so fans should relish this victory. Cam Newton was sensational, but didn't grade exceptionally well according to Pro Football Focus.

Newton finished the game with a +0.8 rating, which is above average but not outstanding. Curiously he was awarded a -1.3 on the pass, despite completing over 75-percent of his throws and failing to throw an interception. I reached out to PFF to try and understand the grade, which they attribute largely to a lack of deep throws.

Three up

Travelle Wharton (+5.2)

A late-camp acquisition, Wharton has been fairly mediocre in 2013 -- but against the Vikings he was near-unstoppable. An astoundingly good run block rating was the reason for success, as the left guard finished with a +4.1 in this category. It should also be noted that he allowed just one hurry on the day, and stood strong against a talented pass rush.

Greg Olsen (+3.9)

Olsen received this because of his run blocking, yes you read that right. He's a player who normally fits the role of "tall wide receiver," but on Sunday he was asked to stay home in the backfield, catch flea-flicked screen passes and play like a regular in line tight end. His blitz pickup was vital in allowing Brandon LaFell's deep touchdown, and it was a great day overall from the tight end.

Mike Tolbert (+3.2)

The bowling ball rumbled his way to a +3.2 rating on the day because of his balanced play. Tolbert was a +1.4 grade as a receiver and +1.1 as a rusher, en route to his best game of the season. It was a welcome sight to see Mike Shula use the fullback correctly, and continuing to make him an offensive focus will pay dividends.

Three down

Star Lotulelei (-2.3)

Something has to be up with the Panthers first round pick. Lotulelei was on the field for 34 snaps, and was completely invisible. This was his first game without registering a single statistic, and he was held in check all game long. Perhaps teams are starting to scheme against Lotulelei, which isn't a bad thing -- but it would be nice to see him make an impact also.

Sione Fua (-2.0)

Sunday's game was a bad day for every Panthers' defensive tackle, which could say more about the Vikings' offensive line and Adrian Peterson than it does about Carolina's lack of talent.

Frank Alexander (-1.6)

The bad news is that Frank Alexander has regressed in 2013, the good news is that Charles Johnson (-1.4) struggled rushing from the same position. Alexander registered just one hurry on 14 pass rush attempts, failing to make an impact in a rotational role.

Carolina's Jekyll and Hyde pass rush needs to improve. There are times the unit looks unstoppable, and those where they'll get completely stonewalled -- Sunday was the latter. Mario Addison graded out as the Panthers' best pass rushing lineman, and that says a lot.

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