Cam Newton didn’t account for a touchdown Sunday for just the fourth time in his career and had his second-worst passer rating in a game this season.
Still, Ron Rivera said the numbers didn’t tell the whole tale from the Panthers’ quarterback’s performance in the 10-9 victory at San Francisco.
“Figures lie and liars figure,” Rivera said. “You can look at the numbers all you want but put the tape on and see what happens. See how many times the ball got tipped, how many times the ball got dropped, how many times he overthrew it. He didn’t play a bad game. I mean it, too.”
Newton went 16-for-32 for 169 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked four times for 30 yards and finished with a 52.7 passer rating.
Rivera said he counted three drops on the day, including a third quarter pass to Steve Smith that was dropped in the middle of the field on a third-and-12 from the Carolina 45-yard line.
According to Pro Football Focus, the 49ers got pressure on 18 of Newton’s 38 dropbacks. He went 3-for-12 for 31 yards, four sacks, an interception and a 4.9 QB rating on those plays.
The Panthers were playing one of the best defenses in football in San Francisco, which ranks ninth in passing yards allowed with 211.4 yards per game.
“We started off kind of hesitant and uncertain but we got into the groove of things by scoring right before the end of the first half and having a bend-but-don’t-break mentality,” Newton, who began the game 2-for-11 for 18 yards and an interception, said after the game. “A couple of times I felt as if we were just a little bit off with the play early on as well as throughout this game. But we endured and we finished strong.”
Rivera pointed to Newton leading the Panthers on an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to close the first half, as well as twice getting Carolina in field-goal range in the second half.
“I don’t get it,” Rivera said. “But that’s what people are going to see and that’s what people are going to say. We’re not going to worry about that.”
Controversial call: Rivera said the controversial incomplete pass to Vernon Davis in the second quarter was explained to him by the referee, but he didn’t agree with the interpretation.
On second-and-5 from the Carolina 6, Colin Kaepernick threw to Davis, who appeared to catch the ball and secure it in his right hand before free safety Mike Mitchell knocked it free and the Panthers recovered.
The officials saw differently, and Rivera was told the tight end caught the ball but did not make a football move. The Panthers lost the challenge.
“It’s all interpretation and that’s how he interpreted it,” Rivera said. “We went with it. As much as I disagree, it’s part of the game. It’s the element that we have to expect, and that’s the human element.”
The 49ers would kick a field goal to go up 9-0. Rivera was later asked if he would have been as accepting of the call had the outcome been different.
“Probably not,” he said. “It’s human nature.”
Bye, bye, bye: The Panthers were waxed 22-6 coming off their bye in Week 5 by Arizona.
Against Minnesota, Carolina crushed the Vikings 35-10 after their bye. And following a week’s rest for San Francisco, the Panthers topped the 49ers.
So, is too much made of teams coming off a bye week?
“Some teams go back and look at what they did in practice, some teams don’t practice,” Rivera said. “I think a lot is made out of it. It’s really how you handle it as a team ... and obviously we haven’t done a very good job of that.”
The Panthers are 0-3 coming off byes and have been outscored 44-23 in those games. The Patriots, Carolina’s opponent on Monday night, are vastly different following a week of rest.
Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000, the Patriots (7-2) have gone 10-3 after the bye week. New England has outscored opponents 349-209 in those 13 games.
Not only have the Patriots been dominant following bye weeks, but they’ve also been strong in the second half of the NFL season. New England is 83-21 in the second half of the season under Belichick and have had gone undefeated four times during the month of November.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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