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Panthers QB grades: How Dalton performed in loss to Seahawks

Andy Dalton’s veteran savvy wasn’t enough to lead the Panthers to a victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday with rookie quarterback Bryce Young watching from the sideline at Lumen Field.

The Panthers dropped to 0-3 as injuries piled on the already injury riddled squad. Dalton, who was filling in for an injured Young (ankle), got off to an inspiring start, but ultimately fell behind on the road, as Carolina lost to Seattle, 37-27.

With the Seahawks missing some notable starting defenders — including safety Jamal Adams and cornerbacks Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant — Dalton spread the ball around to his weapons. And even as Dalton endured the growing pains of rookie left guard Chandler Zavala and fill-in right guard Calvin Throckmorton — a recent waiver-wire pickup who was the third starter at the position in as many games — the veteran kept his cool and delivered the ball with confidence in the pocket in the first half.

But as the run game continued to struggle and let Carolina down, Dalton was forced to take on the brunt of the second-half offense, and his performance wasn’t enough to boost the Panthers beyond the Seahawks’ eight scoring drives.

Dalton was asked to overcome seven false start penalties from his offensive linemen in the game — including four by left tackle Ickey Ekwonu.

Here’s how Dalton graded out — in place of Young — in the loss to the Seahawks:

Dalton’s stats vs. Seattle

Dalton completed 34 of 58 passes (58.6%) for 361 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 11 yards on two carries. He led five scoring drives on the day.

The veteran quarterback finished the game with a 88.4 passer rating. The 58 throws were a single-season career high for the 13-year veteran.

Dalton’s spreading the ball grade

Dalton targeted 10 weapons in the passing game on Sunday. He completed passes to all of those playmakers against the Seahawks.

Through the first two games of the season, Young averaged seven targeted weapons per matchup.

Adam Thielen was Dalton’s top target on the day, as the veteran wideout hauled in 11 of 14 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown on the afternoon. D.J. Chark was the second-most targeted playmaker, collecting four passes for 86 yards and a touchdown on 11 throws his way.

Dalton’s best throw of the game came on the opening drive, as he slung a laser on the move to Thielen for a gain of 23 yards and a first down. Adding to the impressive throw was the 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty tacked onto the completion after Dalton was hit in the facemask immediately after he let go of the ball.

Grade: A

Dalton’s accuracy/decision-making grade

Dalton started the game with a 6-of-8 completion ratio (75%) for 60 yards. He took what the defense gave him for the most part, but also made accurate throws. He had one toss dropped by rookie Jonathan Mingo over the middle, but the veteran quarterback seemed to be in rhythm early on during his first start of the season.

Dalton led his first touchdown-scoring drive in the second quarter with a handful of impressive throws. Even with a pair of false start penalties and an early drive drop by Chark holding the offense back, Dalton threw for 70 yards and reached pay dirt with a 47-yard touchdown completion to the veteran wideout.

Dalton finished the first half with 14 completions on 22 passes (63.6%) for 158 yards and a touchdown with three scoring drives.

The veteran quarterback wasn’t given much help by the running game against Seattle, which put the pressure on him to deliver in the second half. Even in a close game — filled with field-goal attempts — Dalton had to shepherd pass-heavy drives.

The Panthers finished with 44 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 attempts, despite putting up 233 total rushing yards on the Seahawks in Seattle last season under interim head coach Steve Wilks.

With the run game struggling to hit for big gains, Dalton threw an eye-popping 36 times in the second half. After a stretch of five consecutive incompletions that flowed into the second half, Dalton hit tight end Hayden Hurst and Chark for a pair of big gains on the second drive of the third quarter. The Chark completion went for a gain of 28 yards, even after being challenged by the Seahawks.

Unfortunately for Dalton, an inaccurate pass on third-and-11 led to a missed 55-yard field goal by kicker Eddy Piñeiro, who saw his streak of 25 consecutive successful field-goal attempts come to a close on his 26th try.

Dalton rallied back to close out the third quarter. Even as he dealt with false start penalties and drops (again), Dalton led the Panthers on an eight-play, 55-yard touchdown-scoring drive. He hit Thielen and tight end Tommy Tremble for a pair of big plays on Carolina’s way to the end zone and a new season-high score. A 24-yard catch-and-run connection by Dalton and Thielen got the Panthers to the 1-yard line, and running back Miles Sanders pushed the ball in with a 1-yard touchdown run.

Dalton tried to lead a pair of comeback drives to win the game, but he came up empty on both. He put forth a solid effort but it wasn’t enough. He eventually led a final touchdown drive with the game out of hand.

Dalton’s completion percentage was hurt by more than a handful of drops by his weapons. Mingo, Sanders, Chark and Terrace Marshall were among the culprits who failed to haul in passes.

Grade: B-

Dalton’s mobility grade

Instead of taking off and running, Dalton mostly moved around the pocket and stepped up with throws early. He was excellent with tossing passes on the run early on, keeping plays alive and making the Seahawks pay down the field.

But Dalton’s actual rushing out of the pocket was modest. He had a curious keeper on the final drive of the first half for a 1-yard gain. But in the fourth quarter, he also picked up a huge first-down conversion on a 10-yard gallop on third-and-2.

Grade: C

Dalton’s turnover grade

While Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith threw a second-quarter pick, Dalton protected the ball well through the first half. The veteran played loose, but still made throws that didn’t put the offense at risk. He had a strong first half that didn’t hinder his squad in any way.

Dalton avoided turnovers in the second half, even as the Seahawks pulled away and Dalton was forced to throw 36 times in the final two quarters.

Grade: A

Dalton’s overall grade

Dalton led the Panthers to a season-high 27 points on the afternoon. However, that wasn’t enough for Carolina to take home a win as the defense felt apart in the second half. With injuries piling up on defense, Dalton watched from the sideline as the Panthers allowed eight scoring drives to the Seahawks.

The Panthers’ run game was non-existent throughout most of the outing, and Dalton couldn’t find consistency in the air, as his weapons had more than a handful of drops on the afternoon. Eventually, Carolina failed in all phases in the second half, with Dalton struggling to overcome penalties and pressure with inconsistent accuracy and weapons.

Dalton did enough to keep the Panthers in the game, as he made the offense look competitive for the first time this season. But there were still some similar woes in this one that held him back.

OVERALL GRADE: B

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Mike Kaye covers the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. Kaye previously covered the entire NFL for Pro Football Network, the Philadelphia Eagles for NJ Advance Media and the Jacksonville Jaguars for First Coast News. He is a graduate of the University of North Florida.

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