The nightmare season continued for Cam Newton in Minnesota. He finished the game 18 for 35 (51.4 completion percentage) for 194 yards, one touchdown and one interception. After starting the year with no interceptions in the first two games, he has thrown 11 in the past eight games. The turnovers haven’t been the reason for the Panthers struggles but they certainly haven’t helped.
The Panthers tried to get Newton moving around and make more plays with his feet than in weeks past. He ran the ball nine times against the Vikings and gained 49 rushing yards, which are the highest totals since Week 8. Prior to this season, Newton had a career average of 7.6 rushing attempts per game but this year that number has dropped to 6.4. Newton hasn’t looked healthy all year and the lack of running plays could be a result of this. However, with how bad the offensive line is this year, that mobility could have been a huge boost for the Panthers offense.
The Panthers had one of their best rushing performances of the season against Minnesota with Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Fozzy Whittaker combining for 122 of the team’s 178 rushing yards. Stewart did a majority of the work, picking up 85 yards by himself.
Entering this game, the coaching staff probably planned on relying on the Panthers running game with how bad the Vikings run defense has been this year. When the Vikings jumped out to 21-3 lead early in the second quarter, that game plan basically had to be thrown out as they tried to play catch up.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The Panthers wide receivers had a much tougher task going up against the Vikings’ Top 10 passing defense. Tight end Greg Olsen and rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin were heavily targeted by Cam Newton with 21 targets between the two of them. The rest of the Panthers offense only were targeted a total of 14 times. Olsen and Benjamin were reliable combining for 10 receptions and 115 yards but lacked that game-changing play.
It was undrafted rookie Philly Brown though that had the big play when he pulled in a 32-yard touchdown pass from Newton. It was clear that the coaching staff likes what Brown brings to this offense trying to get him involved in the passing game along with the running game, calling a sweep early in the game.
The offensive line has become one of the main storylines this season, particularly with how much change has taken place at the position. This week Mike Remmers made his first NFL start when he replaced the injured Nate Chandler at right tackle. The change didn’t help any as Cam Newton was sacked four times and hit five additional times.
One player who has impressed in this group is undrafted rookie Andrew Norwell, who had another strong game for the Panthers. Norwell’s athleticism was on display in the first half, when he was able to get outside and be the lead blocker ahead of Stewart on a few of his long runs. Norwell should be a part of this offensive line for the foreseeable future.