At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, Cam Newton has found success in his pro career leaping over defensive lines for a 1-yard touchdown.
Four times the Panthers have called for their quarterback to rise above the line, reach the ball across the plane and score for Carolina, and three times he has delivered.
But Sunday on fourth-and-goal from the Seattle 1, Newton was not asked to use his vertical to get what would have been the game-winning score. Instead, the coaching staff called for Newton to throw, which statistically has been less successful for the quarterback in goal-line situations.
Coach Ron Rivera opted to have Newton, under center, roll to the right and allow him the option to run or pass rather than have to face the 10 Seahawks stacked in the box.
We talk about what our options are in certain situations and circumstances, and we really felt that giving him the run-pass option was really good, Rivera said. We felt that putting three guys into the route was very good. And unfortunately we didnt complete the pass.
Newton has been nearly automatic from the opponents 1 when rushing. Since 2011, Newton has had 10 rushes that resulted in seven touchdowns. And the most effective of the 1-yard runs has been the leap over the line out of shotgun, scoring a touchdown three out of four times.
But Rivera noted that both of Seattles defensive tackles outweighed center Ryan Kalil who was playing with a sprained foot and that a push up front would have been tough.
The Newton leap last worked in Week 2 against the New York Giants. Newton jumped over the line and stretched out the ball to barely break the plane, but he injured his right index finger on the play. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said thats one of the reasons theres always concern sending Newton over the top.
We try to keep it limited in certain situations and make sure that its important situations that were doing it, Chudzinski said. Thats one of the things that he does and does so well and it makes him unique.
Running back Jonathan Stewart has been most likely to have the ball in his hands in 1-yard situations when its not Newton, but he hasnt had nearly the success the quarterback has. Since 2011, Stewart has seven rushes from the opponents 1 for zero total yards and just two touchdowns.
Newton entered the game 2 for 3 on pass plays from the opponents 1 with two touchdowns in his career. Stretching the sample size to include pass plays from within the opponents 3, Newton was 4 for 9 for four touchdowns.
The primary target on Newtons rollout against Seattle was tight end Greg Olsen, but he was well defended by the Seahawks. Newton likely would not have gotten the touchdown with his feet after rolling out, and his last option was backup tight end Ben Hartsock, but Newtons pass hit the ground well short of its intended target.
I, in that particular situation at that point, did feel good about giving Cam multiple options there, Chudzinski said, running and then having a couple of guys that he could throw the ball to, to get out on the edge. And they actually misaligned on it which made it tough for us.
Seattles left defensive end lined up on the right side of the defensive line, leaving Bruce Campbell and Jordan Gross on the left side of the offensive line with hardly anyone to block. Also, a safety slid over on Olsen to make the right side of the field packed with Seahawk defenders than Chudzinski anticipated.
While the odds were in favor of Newton leaping over the line for a touchdown, Seattles defense has proven to be tough inside its 3. Opponents have scored just two touchdowns inside the 3 on nine plays, and both of those were rushes up the middle.
Still, second-year offensive tackle Byron Bell believes he and the rest of the offense have the coaching staffs confidence, no matter what the play call may be.
I know for a fact we (have their confidence), but none of us are getting paid to call plays, Bell said. When Chud calls a play, whatever he calls, were gonna run with it. Whatever he calls, we got to have his back. I know he has ours. He dials it up and we just play ball.
How successful are the Panthers on the opponents 1-yard line since 2011?
Newton (rush): 10 rushes, 7 yards, 7 touchdowns (3 TDs by leaping over the line).
Newton (pass): 2-of-4, 2 touchdowns.
Jonathan Stewart: 7 rushes, 0 yards, 2 touchdowns.
When the Panthers are inside the opponents 3-yard line since 2011
Newton (rush): 16 rushes, 15 yards, 8 touchdowns.
Newton (pass): 4-for-9, 4 touchdowns.
DeAngelo Williams: 3 rushes, 7 yards, 2 touchdowns.