The star quarterback looked to be back in form against the Bengals, both throwing the ball and running the ball. Newton has battled injuries from before the season started, from his rib injury suffered in preseason, while trying to recover from ankle surgery in the offseason.
This week against Newton looked like his explosive self, throwing for 284 yards and two touchdown passes and rushing for 107 yards with a rushing touchdown. Newton accounted for 393 yards and three touchdowns in Week 6.
This type of play from Newton can hide a lot of inefficiencies with this offense. The Panthers are especially going to need it next week in what is likely to be a shootout with the Green Bay Packers.
Panthers Offensive Line
Newton wouldn’t have been able to make half the plays he did against the Bengals, if it wasn’t for the improved play of the offensive line. Through the first four weeks of the season the Panthers offensive line gave up 10 sacks. The last two weeks the sack total has dropped to two, and they didn’t give up a single sack against Cincinnati.
One of the big changes the past two weeks was the increased playing time of right guard Trai Turner. The rookie got his first start of his NFL career last week against Chicago and has played every snap since them. He should only get better as he gains more playing time and the season progresses.
Before the Chicago game it seemed as soon as things start to not go Carolina’s way, they would freeze up and the game would get out of hand quickly.
That wasn’t the case against Chicago, who was up 14 early in the second quarter, and the Panthers went on to outscore them 24-3. This past week against the Bengals was back and forth but the Panthers gave up 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Newton and the rest of the Panthers stayed calm and drove down the field to score at the end of regulation to send it to overtime.
This is the type of resiliency this team will need, especially if the defense is going to struggle as much as they have this season.
Where do you start with the Panthers’ defense? This group ranks 26th in the NFL in yards given up per game (392.5) and just gave up 513 yards to a Bengals offense that was without their best weapon (A.J. Green).
The other stats aren’t much better as they rank 24th in points against per game (26.2) and 15th in sacks (13) which is a huge drop from last season when they led the league with 60. A big reason for the drop has been not having Greg Hardy on the field but that isn’t the only reason.
Last season the defense was excellent against the run, actually second in the NFL, and the Panthers would make teams one dimensional. When the other team was forced to throw the ball, this is when the pass rushers could do their work and get to the quarterback.
As long as opposing offenses can run the ball, almost at will, this Panthers’ defense is going to struggle.
Who really likes tie games? This game between Carolina and Cincinnati was an exciting back and forth game and there should be a winner. The NFL is the only major professional sports league that allows their games to end in ties. The NHL has shootouts while MLB and NBA will keep playing until there is a winner.
The NFL should come up with some kind of solution to avoid these tie games. They could follow the lead of college football that each team gets the ball at the 25-yard line and tries to score. If the score is still tied, they keep playing until there is a winner.
I am not saying this is the best system but any system seems better than allowing games to end in a tie.
The rest of the NFC South
How the mighty have fallen within this NFC South division. The New Orleans Saints were on their bye this week and they actually moved up the standings from third to second with the Atlanta Falcons losing to the Chicago Bears. The Bucs have looked lost for most of the season and before they realized it they were down 48-0 at halftime to the Ravens.
Even though the Panthers have some legitimate concerns on the defensive side of the ball, they have to feel good about their chances to win their second consecutive division title. The reason is because every other team in the division has the same exact defensive struggles.
The Panthers have a tough four game stretch coming up but if they can split those four games, their last five games set up nicely for them. They finish the year with three divisional games and two games against Minnesota and Cleveland.