The Carolina Panthers victory over the Atlanta Falcons was needed, but it wasn't as convincing as they've had in the past. Player grades from Pro Football Focus supported this idea, as just 21 total players graded positively on Sunday, with only 10 finishing above the 1.0 mark which marks a good game.
It's part of knowing how to win games a team should. It's likely that we'll see less flashy individual performances but more team wins. On Sunday the offensive line and secondary stood out, giving the Panthers enough to win when paired with Matt Ryan's three interceptions.
Ryan Kalil (+3.4)
It's important to note that Atlanta doesn't have much talent at defensive tackle, but it shouldn't take away from how well Ryan Kalil kept Cam Newton clean in the pocket.
No player is more important on Carolina's offensive line because of how uncomfortable Cam gets when he's pressured up the middle of the field. This is where his mechanics start to fail, and in the past we've seen him throw interceptions when forced to deal with midfield pressure.
It's nice to see Kalil rebound after a couple of rough weeks.
Drayton Florence (+2.5)
This might have been a one off performance, but Florence was sensational. The secondary caught a serious break with both Roddy White and Julio Jones out, but Florence locked down his man and the late-game pick six was vital in sealing the victory for Carolina.
Star Lotulelei (+2.3)
A few weeks ago we talked about rookies having up and down seasons, which became abundantly clear as Star Lotulelei went back to his successful ways against the Falcons.
He finished with three stops and two quarterback hurries, all while posting a +2.2 run stopping rating. He's not only the best run stopper on the Panthers, he's one of the best in the NFL. Star was everything the Panthers could ask for and more.
Chris Scott (-1.6)
It feels mean to pick on the injured guy, but Scott was once again abysmal. He surrendered a sack and a hurry in just 18 pass blocking snaps, and was a non-factor in the run game.
If the season ended today he'd finish with a -9.9 overall rating, and -10.6 as a run blocker -- this isn't good, especially for a right guard.
Chase Blackburn (-1.3)
This is part of the struggle of making a change at linebacker from a reliable player to an unreliable one. Blackburn is good in short bursts, but he's still no Jon Beason.
In one series on Sunday he missed two tackles and surrendered a first down to Tony Gonzalez. Either Blackburn or Kuechly were picked on for much of the game.
Luke Kuechly (-1.1)
This is another one of those things where it doesn't really matter as long as the team is winning. Luke has vastly improved his pass coverage over his rookie season, but he's still some time away from being able to single cover one of the best tight ends in the NFL.
Interestingly, Kuechly graded very poorly in run support despite having Lotulelei play so well in front of him. It was a bad week for the Panthers linebacker and it will get better.