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NFL Offensive Line of the Week: Panthers protect Cam Newton

In today's fantasy-obsessed football world, it's easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara is here to fix that. Following each week's games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all 32 teams and ultimately select a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week. Without further ado, the Week 2 winner is ...

Offensive Line of the Week: Carolina Panthers

The Panthers were well-rested, with nine days between the NFL season opener and Sunday's bout with San Francisco, and keeping quarterback Cam Newton clean was a major priority after all the big hits he took vs. Denver in Week 1. Well, mission accomplished. The Panthers' pass protection held up well against a 49ers defense that pitched a shutout in Week 1 vs. the Rams (sacking Case Keenum twice). Heading into Monday, the Panthers had the second-best pass-blocking unit of the week (behind Washington), according to Pro Football Focus, with just six hurries, zero QB hits and zero sacks attributed to the offensive line. Newton was sacked once in the game, but it came on a scramble and wasn't attributed to the O-line. Newton completed 24 of 40 passes for 353 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in the Panthers' home opener.

Although the offense didn't score a rushing touchdown, the Fozzy Whittaker-led ground attack was superb. Whittaker entered the game early when Jonathan Stewart went down with an ankle injury after accruing 9 yards on five carries. Whittaker finished with a career-high 100 yards on 16 carries (6.3 yards per carry).

The Panthers lead the league in rushing yards per game (166.5) through Week 2 in part because of their huge performance Sunday, when the team racked up 37 carries for 176 yards. Newton, one of the game's best dual-threat quarterbacks, had six carries for 37 yards -- five were designed run plays.

On Sunday, Carolina fans had a scare when right guard Trai Turner suffered a sprained ankle. Daryl Williams filled in for a few series and did his job, but the good news is that Turner came back in to finish the game.

Other notable O-line units in Week 2

Atlanta Falcons:After a tough loss at home to open the season, the Falcons went on the road to the Black Hole in Oakland. The offensive line helped Devonta Freeman rush for 93 yards on 17 carries (5.5 yards per carry). In total, the Falcons amassed 139 yards on 29 attempts, four of which went for 10-plus yards. This unit held up well against game wreckers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, giving up one sack and three quarterback hits and nearly making the Raiders' pass-rushing duo a non-factor.

Pittsburgh Steelers:Another great performance by the Steelers' offensive line and running back DeAngelo Williams, who is the NFL's leading rusher heading into Week 3. The field was very sloppy due to the pouring rain, and the footing can get tricky in the trenches. Even so, Pittsburgh's O-line only allowed the Bengals' defense to sack Ben Roethlisberger once.

Follow Shaun O'Hara on Twitter @ShaunOHara60.

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