It was a tale of two halves for Cam Newton. In the first half, he was effective going 8 for 10 and making smart plays. He was able to lead the offense down the field, taking what the Seahawks gave him and even with a fumble in the second quarter, was very solid.
The second half was a different story. He was forcing throws, only able to complete 4 of 12, threw an interception and was sacked twice on the final four plays for the offense. Turnovers are starting to become a concern for Newton, who now has at least one in each of his last four games. The Panthers are 1-2-1 over this stretch.
It wasn’t an awful game for Cam Newton, considering he was going up against a very good defense, but at this point in his career the expectations are higher for the former number one overall pick.
For the second week in a row, Jonathan Stewart put together a solid performance but this time it was against a very strong run defense. Stewart ran hard, was not afraid of contact and finished runs finishing the day with 79 rushing yards and 15 receiving yards. The only real hiccup came in the second quarter when Stewart and Newton mis-communicated and mishandled the handoff, resulting in a fumble.
The Panthers offensive line is nothing to brag about so they need a bruising running back like Stewart who can absorb contact and keep running forward, picking up those tough yards. There is a chance that DeAngelo Williams could return for Thursday’s matchup with New Orleans, which would be a huge boost. It would give the Panthers two solid running backs that should be able to help control the clock and keep Drew Brees on the sidelines.
It is tough to give a solid grade on the wide receivers considering the fact that the top 3 (Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant) combined for a total of 13 targets. Benjamin and Cotchery were the only two to catch passes (Avant only had one target) and finished the day with seven receptions for 127 yards.
These aren’t horrible considering they accounted for almost 75 percent of the total receiving yards between these two wide receivers. The reason this group got the grade they did was not for any receptions but one play that was a turning point in the game.
At the start of the second quarter, Carolina was on the Seahawks three-yard line looking for a touchdown. Kelvin Benjamin lined up on the left side of the formation, faked to the back corner and cut back into the middle along the back end line. Newton put a perfect pass high enough for Benjamin to get it, however the pass went right through the rookie’s hands and fell incomplete. These are the type of plays Carolina needs from Benjamin who has stepped into that number one wide receiver role.
It was a very quiet day from this position, which is rather surprising and disappointing. Entering this game, Greg Olsen has been averaging 5.85 receptions and 70 yards per game. He is tied for the team lead with five touchdown receptions.
Against Seattle, he finished with only one reception for 16 yards and was only targeted a total of three times. This is not a recipe for success for this offense, especially with how inexperienced Benjamin is. Newton and the Panthers offense needs to rely on Olsen to keep this unit moving down the field.
The question with pass catchers is where to place the blame. Does it fall on the pass catcher for not getting open, running clean routes, giving their quarterback a clean target? Or does it fall on the quarterback for working through his progressions to quick or slow and not trusting his pass catcher? It is hard to tell so this grade will have to be based solely on expectations entering this game and results.
One thing is clear and that is the offensive line is going to be a work in progress all season. The Panthers had a new starter at left guard for this game, undrafted Andrew Norwell. It is usually never a good thing for a undrafted rookie to be called upon in only his eighth week of his rookie season. However, he played pretty well and was not the problem with this group.
The blame this week has to fall on the team’s starting tackles, Byron Bell and Nate Chandler, who seemed to be constantly getting beat around the edge. It seemed like Newton at times was a sitting duck and was not given enough time to look down the field to make the throws. Against the Seahawks, Newton was sacked three times and hit five more times. Hopefully, the return of starters Trai Turner and Amani Silatolu will help this group.