It's tempting not to look back at the Panthers' playoff loss to San Francisco, but the wound has healed just enough to take a deeper look. Here's how the players grades out on Sunday according to Pro Football Focus.
Kawann Short (+3.5)
Short didn't make a big impact as a pass rusher, but had one of his best games at stopping the run. He finished with three total tackles and a quarterback hurry and stuffed to runs.
Both Short and Star Lotulelei were great against the run on Sunday, which is a great sign for the future give this is the team's defensive core moving forward.
Thomas Davis (+1.8)
Overlooked by everyone outside of Carolina, Davis turned up to play. He did fairly well against the run, but the outside linebaker's pass rushing is what really set him apart.
Davis amassed two quarterback hits and a hurry to go along with his three tackles. It's been so much fun to see the veteran linebacker used as an aggressive pass rusher this season. We rarely got to see that facet to his game earlier in his career, but Davis is coming into his own now.
Steve Smith and Luke Kuechly (+1.7)
Two franchise cornerstones, same grade.
Smith was far and away the team's best wide receiver, despite being shut out for almost half a game. That's a sign it's time to find a receiver in the draft.
What more is there to say about Luke Kuechly? He wasn't perfect on Sunday, but we're at a point where eight tackles a sack and a hurry is a ho-hum day for him. Kuechly is that good.
Travelle Wharton (-3.2)
Byron Bell (-2.7)
Chris Scott (-2.4)
I'm not breaking down the minutia here. The entire right side of the line sucked. Scott and Bell found a way to allow six of the team's nine quarterback hurries. It makes you want to pull your hair out because we saw this coming in Spartanburg.
Wharton was so bad a run blocking it's astonishing. The team as a whole graded out at -7.3 on the day, and he was responsible for -4.4 of it.