Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton gets better the quicker he lets go of the ball.
Specifically, and statistically (according to Pro Football Focus), when Newton releases in 2.6 seconds or less his quarterback rating was 96.4 entering Sunday’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.
When he has held the ball any longer, his rating dips to 63.1.
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So it was no surprise that, in the 30-20 victory Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, the Carolina offense let the quick passes fly. In fact, Newton’s longest pass through the air was a 16-yarder down the seam to receiver Ted Ginn Jr. The other chunk (15-plus yards) pass plays were all of the catch-and-run variety.
“I thought it helped Cam get into a rhythm,” coach Ron Rivera said after the game. “I thought he controlled things very nicely.”
Carolina’s score on its second offensive series was set up by three quick passes, to Ginn and twice to Devin Funchess, for 11, 11 and 22 yards, with the latter being a catch-and-run out of bounds.
“He got a really nice rhythm there, especially in the first half,” said tight end Greg Olsen. “Real nice. Marched it right down the field.”
Those quick passes kept rolling the offense forward, and the Panthers led 24-7 by halftime, which was the first time Carolina has led at the break since Week 3 against Minnesota.
“I just think it adds confidence to the whole offense, that, you know, you find your rhythm and momentum is very powerful,” said Olsen. “And you just keep rolling. That’s what we did today.”
Then, Newton used his legs. He had five designed runs, including two on the first drive. The first was a 19-yard gain up the middle to the Arizona 11 before he was pushed out of bounds, and the second set up a 2-yard punch-in by running back Jonathan Stewart.
“One thing he wanted to do is he wanted to run the ball,” said Rivera. “That’s his ‘edge’ as he told you guys on Monday. That’s who he is; that’s the type of quarterback he is. He brings energy to us as a football team and he did some things that really helped us.”
Newton suffered a concussion that sidelined him for a game as he went through protocol, and said last week that despite the delicate nature of the injury he still wants to run the ball between the tackles as needed. The extra layer that adds to an offense is what he’s known for – his “edge.”
Newton rushed seven times for 43 yards. He only ran the ball twice in his return from the concussion protocol, in a loss in New Orleans this month.
“I always wanna run it,” he said after the game. “Whatever it takes to win, I’m for it. Nothing different.”