1. I absolutely hate it when people use completion percentage as a stand-alone stat, because it can be such a misleading statistic. Matt Cassel completed 72.7% of his passes, but he was horrific against the Panthers. The main reason why I hate completion percentage is the fact that it doesn’t take into account how far the quarterback is throwing it, because short passes are inherently easier to complete than long passes; they are also less efficient on a yards per play basis. Cassel averaged just 7.5 yards per completion, so he finished the game with a paltry 5.5 yards per attempt. Give credit to the Carolina Panthers pass defense for that, because they absolutely smothered the Vikings receivers right when they made the catch. Both Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Thomas did a really nice job of keeping their receivers in front of them, and Cassel showed off his limited skill-set. There’s a reason why Josh Freeman is getting the Vikings next start, and two picks has to do with that too. I mean, he was 1-6 on deep throws.
2. Cam Newton had an incredibly easy day, and he did an excellent job taking advantage of some awful coverage by the Vikings awful secondary. The Panthers offensive line should get a lot of credit for keeping Newton’s pocket peachy clean for the vast majority of the afternoon; Newton was only hit twice. He put up off-the-charts numbers with a 20-26-242-3-0 line, a 91.7 ESPN TQBR, and a 143.4 QB Rating. Those numbers are just unreal, and he had an excellent touchdown run in the third quarter to put the game beyond all doubt. I would hold off on giving Newton too much praise, but he did play a great game. I am always impressed when a younger QB is able to bounce back like that from an awful game the previous week, and Newton did a great job in Week 6 of not trying to do too much.
3. The Carolina Panthers pass-catchers really impressed me, because 74% of the passing yards Newton had came after the catch (that’s why I said to hold off on giving Newton too much credit). Brandon LaFell finally showed some big-play ability and caught all four balls thrown at him, and backs Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams were both terrific in the passing game. Greg Olsen and Steve Smith were solid as well, and Olsen had a better game the stat sheet indicates. He’ll never gain plaudits for his blocking, but he did a solid job of that on Sunday.
4. Newton took only three shots downfield and was unable to complete any of them, but Newton gets credit for finding the open man and using YAC to his advantage.
5. The Panthers defense looked downright vicious, as they held the Vikings to under five yards per play. It’s a good thing the Panthers offense was able to get ahead early and take advantage of a porous Vikings secondary, because things could have been dicier if Adrian Peterson was afforded more than ten carries. Still, the Panthers looked solid in coverage, and it is incredibly impressive to see how this secondary has been able to overcome big injuries and play at a solid love. Sure, it was Matt Cassel, but it’s always nice to hold any passing offense to under five yards per attempt.
6. Mike Mitchell had two interceptions, one sack, and seven tackles.
7. Kawann Short came away with two quarterback hits and Thomas Davis had two sacks, but the most consistent pass rusher was Greg Hardy. He continues to be a huge factor this year, and Hardy did a nice job beating Vikings talented left tackle Matt Kalil.
8. Graham Gano booted all six of his kick-offs for touchbacks, and that’s one of the most underrating things in football. It’s so important to have a kicker who can boot the ball through the end zone, and it’s the best defense against a big return- better than any special teams coverage unit. Give Gano some major credit for nailing those kick-offs, and another stat of note is that all three of Brad Nortman‘s punts went inside the 20.
9. Brandon LaFell averaged 26.8 yards per target.
10. Statistically, the Panthers were most effective rushing the football on the outsides and stopping the run on the outsides. Star Lotulelei looked excellent to start the season, but he’s been tailing off recently. I’m definitely still confident in his ability and he was still a steal in the draft, but it is something worth noting.
11. Cam Newton never missed more than one pass in any specific “zone” of the field.
Topics: Behind The Numbers, Brad Nortman, Brandon LaFell, Cam Newton, Captain Munnerlyn, Carolina Panthers, DeAngelo Williams, Graham Gano, Greg Hardy, Greg Olsen, Josh Thomas, Kawann Short, Mike Mitchell, Mike Tolbert, Star Lotulelei, Steve Smith, Thomas Davis