Anybody would be hard pressed to find a negative from Cam Newton performance in the Carolina Panthers’ victory over the New Orleans Saints. He finished the game 20 of 31 for 315 passing yards (which is his highest total since Week 2 of 2011) two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
He did a good job of making the right decision and moving the ball around, completing passes to eight different players, but probably the most important number from Week 3 is zero. That is how many turnovers Newton had against the Saints. This is only the third time in the past 16 games, including playoffs, that Newton did not have turnover.
The one thing that is clear though is Newton is finally healthy and it is apparent by the way he is able to scramble. Through the first three games he has carried the ball 31 times for 144 yards and has rushing touchdowns in consecutive weeks. As long as Newton continues to play this way, the offense will be good enough to compliment this excellent defense.
One of the glaring weaknesses of this offense is at running back. The Panthers have relied heavily on Jonathan Stewart during the early part of the season and he has struggled to get anything going. Against the Saints, he carried the ball 14 times for only 52 yards and 14 of those came on one play. If that play is taken away, Stewart only averaged 2.92 yards per carry against a struggling Saints’ defense.
The problem is that Stewart wasn’t the only one that couldn’t move the ball running against the Saints. Mike Tolbert carried the ball five times for 16 yards and even rookie Cameron Artis-Payne got his first chance carrying the ball and gained six yards on three carries.
The concern with this group is the fact that Stewart did have to leave the game early with an injury. While he has struggled, he is still the team’s best option at running back and if he is out for an extended period of time, this could be a big blow to the offense.
If your name wasn’t Ted Ginn Jr., it was a quiet day for the Panthers’ wide receivers. The veteran wide receiver had his best game since coming back to Carolina, catching four passes for 93 yards, including a 55-yard deep ball from Newton.
The rest of the Panthers’ wide receivers though (Devin Funchess, Philly Brown, Brenton Bersin) combined for only 2 receptions for 27 yards. It was rather surprising to see Brown have almost no role in the offense today as he didn’t even have a pass thrown his way in Week 3.
Similar to Cam Newton, it is hard to find a negative from Greg Olsen’s performance in Week 3. He finished the game with eight receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns and led the Panthers’ pass catchers with 11 targets. This is the second week in a row that he has had 10+ targets and this is one trend that should continue the rest of the season.
The Panthers were even able to get backup tight end Ed Dickson involved in the passing game as he caught two of three targets for 19 yards. The team is lucky to have two reliable pass catching tight ends and this should help continue to keep this offense moving.
The Panthers offensive line once again excelled in pass protection. After slowing down the Houston Texans led by J.J. Watt, they were able to keep Cam Newton upright only allowing one sack and three QB hits. The concern is still at left tackle with Michael Oher but as long as Newton is healthy and able to scramble, it should be able to account for this.
As a whole though this offensive line continues to struggle to get push at the point of attack to open up running lanes for the Panthers running backs. This is the one area that this group needs to vastly improve so the offense can get back to running the ball consistently and effectively.
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