Cam Newton’s audition as Carolina Panthers QB didn’t work out
Cam Newton is trying very hard. Cam Newton is doing good things.
But Cam Newton isn’t the answer to quarterback in 2022 for the Carolina Panthers, and at that midseason audition he proves that point almost every Sunday.
The Newton Panthers lost 29-21 to Atlanta on Sunday at home, the fifth straight loss Caroline suffered in a disheartened Bank of America stadium.
Once again, Newton has been benched for several series. Once again, he was sloppy with the ball at a few critical points, committing two turnovers that head coach Matt Rhule repeatedly called “catastrophic.”
“Dude, I’m so disappointed in myself,” Newton said after the game.
It was the 11th straight start Newton has lost to the Panthers, dating back to 2019 and his first go-around in Charlotte. He’s 0-3 this year with Carolina (5-8), and those two touchdowns on his first two touches in a reserve role in Arizona are just a memory.
Newton’s two turnovers on Sunday led to touchdowns in Atlanta. The first was a pick six interception that came back 66 yards the other way when Newton failed to recognize a well-disguised cover.
“I didn’t see him,” Newton said of Atlanta linebacker Mykal Walker, cutting a road and grabbing the ball all the way.
The second turnover – let’s call it the stumble – was actually worse because it was a self-inflicted injury. Late 20-14, on a second and 3 points from Atlanta’s 47 in the third quarter, Newton’s foot was trampled by center Pat Elflein.
The QB was supposed to hand the ball over to Chuba Hubbard, and he still tried to do it by falling.
“I should have eaten him,” Newton said, meaning he should have suffered what would have been a four-yard loss. Instead, he tried to hand the ball over and instead slapped it awkwardly on Hubbard. “Inexcusable,” Newton later said.
The ball hit the ground and Atlanta quickly recovered. A few games later, a 20-14 lead for the Falcons became 26-14.
“They were just driving killers,” Newton said of his two turnovers. “Game killers, in essence. “
The quarterback was far from the only one making mistakes, of course. Left tackle Cam Erving got Newton sacked on a critical fourth try. QB substitute PJ Walker, who replaced Newton for three series, unleashed a gruesome pop-fly interception on his second pass attempt. The Panthers’ defense allowed Atlanta to convert a third and 14 on poor communication, meaning the offense never recovered the ball with a chance to tie.
Cam Newton’s “catastrophic” plays
But still, a lot of the NFL comes down to the quarterback, and Newton wasn’t good enough.
“These catastrophic games, unfortunately, overshadow a lot of very good games,” Rhule said.
And Newton had some good plays – he scored on a 12-yard TD on Carolina’s first possession and threw the ball decently for the most part, involving both DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. Newton ran for 47 yards and threw 178, and those numbers could have won the game without the pick-6 and the trip.
It’s the thing with Newton now, though. There is always a “but”. It would have worked, but….
“We can’t have multiple games of turnover from the quarterback,” Rhule said.
Newton isn’t sulky after losses like he was as a rookie, but they still hurt. “You grow up to better bottle your emotions,” Newton said. “I mean I can move furniture now if you let me.” But that won’t do anything to anyone, but will make the story even more entertaining. “
Newton is 32 and doing his best. But it should be clear by now that QB1 as a stopgap was the better option in November, yes, but that’s mostly because the Panthers were desperate with Sam Darnold’s confidence lost and him being injured to start.
In 2021, Newton is set to start those last four games, and Rhule sounded on Sunday as if he would keep Newton as a starting point at Buffalo next week. But in 2022, they’ll need to have a better plan, and it’s a plan that doesn’t include Newton unless he just comes back for the minimum of veterans as reinforcements.
And I doubt the Panthers will. They should instead take another free agency QB, and probably draft one as well (Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh is a real possibility, and it doesn’t hurt that Carolina owner Dave Tepper is also from Pittsburgh). Keep Darnold around because you have to do it from a financial standpoint. Keep throwing darts at this issue until it is resolved.
Newton did not fix it. He got into a bad situation, and it didn’t get any worse, but it didn’t improve except in terms of excitement. Once 3-0, the Panthers have now lost eight of their last 10 games.
Where is the QB answer?
Rhule absolutely hates avoidable quarterback fumbles. I thought Teddy Bridgewater sealed his fate with the Panthers last December when he tried to get the ball over the goal line in the first and the 1 goal and instead pushed it back to Green Bay .
With Newton, he may have sealed his own with the pick-six and, more importantly, the stumble.
“We’re just trying to make sure things aren’t catastrophic,” Rhule said. “Put a slap on the floor, okay. Fall on the ball and be second and 1. That’s what really bothers you about it.
People are getting sentimental about Newton these days, just like they did when the Rolling Stones played at Bank of America Stadium a few months ago.
Atlanta Walker said after his interception, rejoicing in who he intercepted, “Cam Newton is my all-time favorite. … It’s crazy.”
But Cam Newton 2.0 is not going to end happily for the Panthers, who will have the chance not to lose and finish 5-12.
Bringing Cam back was a worthwhile gamble. But it does not work.
There is a QB answer somewhere for the Panthers. But it’s not on this list.