After all that was expected of the Carolina Panthers this season, one thing completely unexpected happened in Tampa. The Panthers barely scored in their 16-10 loss to Tampa Bay, a fact they must rectify quickly when they play New Orleans in their home opener Sunday.
“We are better than 10 points offensively,” Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said Wednesday, adding that “the defense did enough” for the Panthers to win that first game.
It was a turnabout for Carolina, which usually was answering questions about its defense in 2011. The Panthers’ 10 points tied the Miami Dolphins for the fewest scored in Week 1.
Newton, who accounted for 35 touchdowns in 2011 in the best rookie year any quarterback has ever had, said the Panthers too frequently had individual breakdowns against the Buccaneers.
Carolina ran the ball for 10 yards, tying a franchise low. Newton threw for 303 yards but also had two critical second-half interceptions. He ranks 20th in the league in quarterback efficiency after one week.
“On offense, it is 11 guys who have to gel to make a play,” Newton said. “Defensively, you can kind of get away with it with a single player making a play and making up the difference of another person. But offensively, if one guy slips down or falls down, it’s going to show on the whole offense.”
This week the Panthers will likely need to score around 30 to win against New Orleans. The Saints are offensively robust but lost 40-32 to Washington in its opener when rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III tore the Saints’ defense apart.
That same Saints defense put a bounty on Newton last year, according to an NFL probe. In March, this sentence was buried deep in an NFL press release: “The investigation showed bounties being placed on four quarterbacks of opposing teams – Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, and Kurt Warner.”
After the bounty news flashed across the NFL, Newton’s father Cecil told The Observer: “Nobody wants to hear of any kind of wicked intentions, of hurting and taking out star players from another team.”
Cam Newton said Wednesday that he wasn’t going to address the bounty issue. Said Newton: “I’m not going to speak on something that was last year…. I think if you’re trying to find some type of animosity or some type of edge to go into this week, each and every week is a game we have to win. This week is nothing different.”
Newton didn’t have much more to say than that during his regularly scheduled Wednesday media session, which in 2011 lasted about 8-10 minutes on average.
This time he was only available for two minutes and 37 seconds, which translated into three questions and three answers, before a Panther official said Newton had to go to a meeting.
Last year there were numerous questions about the way Newton dealt with losses, and Newton himself said in one postseason interview that he was a “bad teammate” at times. But Panther coach Ron Rivera said Newton had handled the Week 1 loss to Tampa well.
“Cam’s been solid,” Rivera said. “I talked to him yesterday morning. We had a great conversation. In typical Cam fashion, he put it on himself -- things he felt he could have done better, things that he could have handled better. The one thing he has done is he has opened up and been a little more vocal about it. Which I think is good. I think the more he says, the more he’s out there about it, the better off he’s going to be.”
Newton deferred to the team’s veteran leaders last year, but there is no one better than the team’s quarterback to grab an offense by the lapels when things are going poorly.
It’s very early in the season, but the Panthers quickly need to prove they are “better than 10 points” per game, as Newton said. Newton said he wasn’t “anxious” for this game, just “excited.”
Panther fans? I’d say the word right now would be more like “apprehensive.” But it only takes one Sunday to change all that.