C-Mac gets stuffed, Newton scatters 51 passes as Panthers drop to 0-2 with 20-14 loss

While being a “content creation person” is my bill-paying persona, there has always been a sportswriter who has to get opinions out there. The straight up question Panther fans will be asking for the next ten days is, “What is really wrong with Cam?” because he was all over the lot throwing the ball – Olsen’s grab of a pass behind him was one of several made by receivers – and while his running ability was always a major benefit, he certainly doesn’t seem willing to get hit, nor does team seem willing to ask him to run over a D-back any more.

Maybe its too personal to mention his haberdashery, but the multi-colored scarf atop his wild hairdo and granny shades at the post-game didn’t score any points either.

Cam Newton came out with the right answer for Thursday nights 20-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that fingers get pointed at an offense that doesn’t score touchdowns. That he is the most visible reason for the 0-2 record, and its his job to make plays is Part 2 to that truth, and there are already boo-birds in Charlotte regarding that play making.

Newton’s stat line was 25/51 passes for 333 yards, two rushes for zero yards. He didn’t get a yard on 4th down on the Panther’s initial drive, just before a 27-minute game delay for lightening, and he was a decoy on the final play, when Panthers needed *HALF* a yard for a first down, and barely more than ONE for a winning TD.

Is it too early to be mad or discouraged?

The question of whether its too early to be mad or discouraged is almost less important than WHY they couldn’t beat the Bucs, and whether this will be a truly LONG year. 

On Monday I had concerns about being a ‘homer’ – someone who always tries to put a happy face on events – after the season-opening 30-27 loss to LA Rams, which was a light-years difference from what came through last night. Certainly there was no “C-Mac (McCaffrey) the Mighty” cranking out yardage. He had a miserable night (37 yds. rushing, two receptions for 16 yards, no TDs), including not getting close to gaining the yard needed at the end of the game.

Was it that long ago that Newton would have handled that last bit himself, stretching his 6’5, 250 pounds over the goal line? The O-line handled the Rams, getting three short TD runs, can’t they go straight ahead two weeks in a row? Yes, Newton threw downfield a number of times in that 333, although Olsen’s big night (6 catches/110 yards, including a 41-yard gain), involved lugging the ball most of the way. Curtis Samuel had a 44-yard gain, but he had to turn around and wait vs. catching the ball in stride, zero yards after the catch.

The only Panther who had a great night was kicker Joey Slye, who was 4-4 on field goals, two of them over 50-yards, one of which clonged off the right post and through, and his kickoffs weren’t returned. (Enjoy that game check, Joe, but if you lead the league in scoring, we’ll probably have had a lousy year).

Okay, Luke Kuechly had 17 tackles, including one for a safety that got Panthers within one score, and provided a short field for their final unsuccessful drive. The Bucs suffocated C-Mac all game, and DE Shaqil Barrett had three sacks of Newton, who never looked in sync.

Olsen looked a little stiff while running (a back problem left him a game time decision), and there seemed to be enough production (Samuel- five catches/91 yards; DJ Moore- nine catches/89 yards) to spend a lot of time in Tampa’s end of the field, but an offense that’s only making field goals needs 3 to beat a TD by the other team. That’s a fact Panther fans will recognize from many games against the Seahawks, when both D’s slugged it out.

The Panthers now have road games against Phoenix and the Jaguars, and while the Cardinals Heisman-winning QB (Kyler Murray, 2018) didn’t look good for most of their 27-all tie with the Lions last week, mobile QBs always seem to torture the Panthers. Winston started 11/14 in the first half and ended up 16/25 for 208 yards and a TD, and while that was considerably better than last weeks performance, unfortunately,  the Panthers can’t say the same.

One thing that’s guaranteed – Panthers won’t give Newton a seat and play Kyle Allen, certainly not after just two games, because it just doesn’t pay to bench your top QB to see if he gets super motivated. The defense can also work on actually stopping runners (Tampa had 100 yards on the ground, the Panthers 39) vs. letting them churn for a couple more after contact.

 

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