What a day it was for Cam Newton. The Panthers quarterback led the offense in what was a terrific performance, throwing for five touchdown passes; a career high and tied for the single-game franchise record. All five passes went to different receivers and throughout Sunday’s blowout win, Newton showed confidence and poise, delivering strike after strike en route to one of the most dominant performances of his career. He finished with a 62% completion percentage and 246-yards to go with his quintet of scoring darts. After a third straight impressive performance through the air, Newton appears to be heating up; a scary thought for the rest of the league.
This was an all-around stellar performance from the Panthers offense and that included Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. Stewart rushed for 102-yards on 21 carries and continually gashed the Washington defense for big gain after big gain, running hard and with patience to pick up yardage as his near 5-yards per carry average would suggest. Carolina’s lead back also started the scoring in this one with a 12-yard touchdown catch. And Tolbert scored one of his own on the next drive off of a three yard pass. The offense and running game as a whole also extended their streak of games rushing for over 100-yards to 21.
As Cam goes, so do the receivers as the top three wideouts all did their part in securing the victory. Devin Funchess had himself another impressive day and showed the kind of weapon he could soon be for this offense, grabbing four nice catches for 64-yards and a score. And Ted Ginn and Jerricho Cotchery helped the cause as well catching five for 37-yards and four for 57, respectively. As always, the ball was spread around evenly amongst this bunch and even minus Philly Brown this group did its job and continued their overachieving ways.
It wasn’t a terribly flashy day for the tight ends but Greg Olsen still contributed in more ways than one. The veteran target caught three passes for 54-yards and a score to help out the offense but also was a key cog in both red zone plays that resulted in the first two touchdowns of the game. Even a relatively “quiet” day from Olsen looks pretty good as it did again here.
After a shaky performance last week, the line stepped it back up and did a nice job protecting Newton and opening running lanes in this one. The unit gave up just two sacks and three quarterback hits on the day and once again allowed their quarterback to survey the field and find his receivers. In the run game they helped Stewart rush for over 100-yards and cleared the way for their lead back. Another solid game from this underrated offensive line that should see their starting left guard, Andrew Norwell, back in action on Thursday.
A strong defensive showing for the Panthers started up front with the line. The group applied solid pressure all game long and contributed four of the five total sacks from the defense. Kony Ealy had another outstanding day in what has been a tremendous second season for the defensive end as he notched a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery, all on one play…while being held. Mario Addison (1.5), Ryan Delaire (0.5) and Kyle Love (1) logged the remaining three sacks for a unit that put up another solid day and will only get stronger with the return of Charles Johnson next week.
The tackle numbers have seemed to be lacking in this group but that doesn’t mean their impact hasn’t been felt. The defense as a whole held Washington to just 14-yards on the ground; a single-game record for the Panthers. AJ Klein surprisingly led the team in tackles with six and Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson posted five, four and four of their own. The most notable plays from this unit though came with the forced fumbles from Kuechly and Davis to set up the offense with great field position. The defense overall forced five turnovers, four being fumbles, and the linebackers were key contributors in that regard.
Aside from one hiccup on the 56-yard touchdown from DeSean Jackson in the first, this group had another showing to be proud of. Without starter Charles Tillman, Bene Benwikere was moved outside and quickly asserted himself, making five tackles and recording a strip-sack on the first play of the second half. Josh Norman made his presence felt as usual giving up next to nothing and helping against the run and even Colin Jones contributed with a few solid tackles after being burned on the Jackson score. And not to be forgotten was Kurt Coleman who picked off another pass, tying Norman for the team lead with four on the year.
The biggest special teams note came from the Andre Roberts kickoff return where the Washington returner went 99-yards, untouched into the end zone; a bad look for a coverage unit that’s been solid all year. Graham Gano hit all three field goal attempts from 42, 48 and 25 and Brad Nortman averaged 51.8-yards per punt on his four attempts.