The second seasons of Cam Newton in the NFL hasn’t gone according to plan, but there have been shining moments here and there. In the midst of a depressing season, one of the more exciting quarterback prospects in recent years finally had the kind of game people excepted to see much more of from him this season.
Luckily, the Carolina Panthers found a team in a bigger depression and sense of doom than they are. Book will be written on day about the two seasons in which the Philadelphia Eagles crumbled to dust and the successful tenure of Andy Reid ended with a star quarterback not playing because he got hit on the head too many times while two rookies, Nick Foles and Bryce Brown, try to make something of a lost season.
Beating the Eagles isn’t that much of a challenge these days, losing for the 7th straight time. For the Panthers, it’s just a way of putting some smiles on, hoping it’ll create some momentum heading into the final stretch of the season. A 3-8 record isn’t what anyone in Carolina expected after the hype surrounding Cam Newton in his rookie year. The only way was up, and the NFC South was to be theirs again. It certainly looked that way against Philadelphia.
Newton threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns, only his third 300+ game of the season. He also didn’t throw an interception for the sixth time this season, and for the first time in consecutive games. Newton completed his fantastic Monday Night performance with 52 yards of rushing and two touchdowns. He became just the fifth player in the history of MNF with two passing & two rushing touchdowns. Michael Vick did it in 2010. Donovan McNabb, another (former) Eagles quarterback, did it in 2006.
You’d like to complement the Carolina Panthers defense for having a huge day, but it wasn’t that big. Rookie Bryce Brown ran for 178 yards against them, averaging 9.4 yards per carry and scoring two touchdown. Nick Foles managed to get sacked only once, which kinda tells you how toothless the Panthers’ defense and pass rush is, but couldn’t get anything deep to get going for him, finishing with 16-21 but only 119 yards.
The big plays for the Panthers defense came in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia went for it on fourth-and-one, but Bryce Brown was finally stopped, leading to a turnover on downs on the Panthers’ 40. Newton charged down the field, capping off the drive with a 2 yard touchdown. A fumble by Brandon Boykin on the kickoff return led to about four minutes of the Carolina Panthers holding on to their 30-22 lead.
A lot of criticism this season pointed at Cam Newton was about him trying to do too much. Forcing plays when nothing was there and simply carrying an entire offense on his shoulders. Some failed to mention that even when given the chance, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, who were supposed to make an exciting complementary running back duo, simply failed to deliver.
Regardless of his Monday night heroics, which included going 5-5 for 176 yards and two touchdowns on passes traveling 15 or more yards downfield, this isn’t going to be a season Newton looks fondly back upon. Maybe only when he tries to see and learn what went wrong. This was the kind of game Ron Rivera and many others thought Newton has in him for almost every week of the season. It’s also on them to make sure he has an easier way of reproducing this performance.