Cam Newton Stars Against the Saints
The Carolina Panthers’ offense needed this kind of performance from their franchise quarterback. After a sub-par Week 1, Newton has come back with two good excellent performance with this week better than the last. This week was one of the best games for Newton since his first two games of his rookie season.
Newton finished the game throwing for 315 yards, throwing for two touchdowns and running in for a third, which is the highest passing yards in a game for Newton since Week 2 of 2011. He looked in control of the game and it is amazing to see the difference in his play this year compared to last year.
The Panthers quarterback had plenty of help though as Greg Olsen had an incredible performance with eight receptions for 134 yards and two touchdown catches. Even Ted Ginn got involved and finished with four receptions for 93 yards. Both players had catches over 50 yards on Sunday.
In 2014, he battled a number of injuries and couldn’t play at a high level. However, now that he is completely healthy he is able to keep defenses off balance, through the air as well as on the ground.
Panthers Run Game Continues to Struggle
This has been a storyline for three straight weeks as the Panthers run game, particularly their running backs, continue to struggle finding running room. Against the Saints, Jonathan Stewart carried the ball 14 times for 52 yards and Mike Tolbert chipped in with five carries for 16 yards for an average of 3.5 yards per carry.
These numbers are on par for the season with Stewart averaging just under 60 yards per season, which is over a 40 yard drop per game from the end of 2014. The fault is not all on Stewart though as the offensive line has struggled to open up running lanes for Stewart.
This is an area the Panthers thought they could rely on entering 2015 and be a strength to this offense. They may need to go back to the drawing board and let Newton throw it the way he did against the Saints or figure out how to give Stewart room to run.
Josh Norman Deciding Factor in Another Game
The 2015 version of Josh Norman is a turnover machine and has now been the deciding factor in two out of the Panthers first three games. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Norman had a forced fumble and recovery as well as an interception for a touchdown to help seal the win.
Fast forward to this week and Josh Norman intercepts Luke McCown in the final two minutes as he went deep to Brandin Cooks in the end zone. The two interceptions this year already ties his career high from last year.
Norman is quickly making a name for himself as a shutdown cornerback in the NFL and if he keeps making plays like this, he will continue to get recognition as such throughout the league.
Panthers’ Pass Rush Quiet
Once again, the Panthers’ pass rush was almost non-existent as the team only mustered one sack on McCown. After sacking Jaguars’ Blake Bortles five times, the Panthers have only been able to sack the opposing quarterback twice.
The defensive end position has been a concern for over a year now as Kony Ealy has yet to establish himself as the starter opposite Charles Johnson. He actually didn’t even start today, which the Panthers decided to go with Wes Horton. However, after a penalty on the first drive, Ealy was back into the game.
The team also suffered a major blow when Johnson left the game early due to a hamstring injury. This is a defense that needs to get pressure on the quarterback to be successful. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott may need to get creative and even bring pressure from other levels of the defense to jump start this pass rush.
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