Rams vs. Panthers: Player grades from Sunday

Grant Halverson

Cam Newton had one of his best games as a pro, while a stalwart veteran struggled unexpectedly.

It's Tuesday and we have player grades from Pro Football Focus on Sunday's 30-15 win over the St. Louis Rams. There's no mystery Cam Newton was one of the Panthers' best offensive players, but some of the other grades might surprise you.

The St. Louis Rams gave teams a lesson in how not to approach the Carolina Panthers' offense. Janoris Jenkins was routinely left on an island (more on that Wednesday) without safety help over the top. This allowed Newton and Steve Smith to carve up the field while the Rams' defense over-committed to stopping the run, causing DeAngelo Williams to have a weak day.

Luke Kuechly was surprisingly quiet on defense, but this was largely a product of the Rams scheming away from him and the impact Star Lotulelei had at defensive tackle.

Three up

Cam Newton (+4.3)

The Panthers' quarterback did everything asked of him and more in the Panthers' win, typified by his 88-percent completion rating and excellent player grade.

In the past we've seen Newton finish with a decent pass grade supplemented with a good running grade, but on Sunday he finished with +4.0 on the pass, +0.2 on the run and gained an extra +0.1 from goading the Rams into a costly offsides penalty.

We saw the evolution of Newton as a quarterback. A player that realized he didn't need to do it all himself, finally trusting the players around him and getting the crowd involved. There is nothing more you could ask of the third-year quarterback.

Star Lotulelei (+4.1)

Rookies have up-and-down first years, which has shown to be true over the last few weeks. Lotulelei played quite poorly against the Cardinals and Vikings, but was sensational against the Rams on Sunday.

His rating is fueled largely by a team-leading +2.7 against the run. Lotulelei finished with six tackles and a perfect 100-percent stop rate, proving he's more than just a space eater. This took away from Kuechly's day, but none of that matters if the team is winning.

Travelle Wharton (+4.0)

The veteran offensive guard has struggled for much of the season, but really broke out in week seven as Wharton didn't allow a single pressure on 24 pass protection snaps.

Life was made easier for the offensive line after Chris Long was ejected from the game, but that doesn't take anything away from Wharton who had his best game of 2013.

Three down

Ryan Kalil (-3.1)

Good players have bad games, it happens. It also didn't help that Kalil was charged with blocking one of the best young defensive tackles in the league in Michael Brockers.

The second-year DT got the better of the veteran center, who allowed just one QB hurry, but he was routinely pushed backwards at the point of attack. This caused Newton to have to adjust, but thankfully the offensive game plan focused on quick passing, which mitigated the problem.

Josh Thomas (-2.8)

This experiment just keeps on kicking, now doesn't it? It doesn't make any sense, but he continues to get the start despite a series of struggling play.

Quarterbacks throwing at Thomas are averaging a quarterback rating of 105.9 on the season, and on Sunday he allowed 97 receiving yards and a touchdown. Can we pull the plug on this thing soon?

Chris Scott (-2.5)

Scott has been terrible this season after being signed during training camp to help solve the Panthers' problems at offensive guard. He has a -0.9 rating against the pass, and a mind-numbing -10.6 against the run -- which is supposed to be his strong suit.

DeAngelo Williams didn't stand a chance to make plays without a right guard that could block, which proved to be the difference on Sunday.

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