On Sunday, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was the version of himself that fans have become accustomed to seeing for the past four weeks.
He has completed fewer that 50 percent of his passes in each of the past four games, including 37 percent Sunday during a 28-16 victory against the San Diego Chargers. Newton’s 10 completions on 27 attempts made up the second-lowest completion percentage of his career, and he threw for 160 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Let receiver Devin Funchess be the first to remind those who criticize Newton of the many, many variables that play into the play of the quarterback himself.
“I mean, you all gonna base off stats, you can’t do that,” Funchess said after the game. “You can’t see a painting based off, ‘Oh, it took him three minutes to paint the picture.’ You got to look at the whole picture. Look at the details.
“It’s not just him. Like, if someone rushed out the left side he has to push out and it switches our route. And you just have to adjust and make the play.”
It’s fair to remember the variables. The line has been shuffled more times than a deck of cards in Las Vegas. The Panthers are working with their third-string center and backup left tackle, and guys have switched positions so often that there is only one player still in his original spot.
Newton’s receivers also dropped a few this week.
He shouldered the blame for this during Sunday’s postgame news conference.
“It’s pretty much on me for those near misses, and you just have to get everybody the ball and get the ball out of my hands as soon as possible,” he said.
He also was frank about where the offense is despite coming away with a victory.
“Not to rain on the win, but we have to put up points,” he said. “As in, getting touchdowns. If we do that, that game is out of hand earlier and that’s what imposing our will is.
“We have to have that type of mentality, that killer instinct and we didn’t have it. But we found ways to win and that’s positive and the optimism of it.”
Newton is making a habit of honesty in the self-evaluation of his performance this season, too.
“I don’t know. It’s just me,” he said Thursday. “For me it’s trying to get it to carry over from practice to games. And in this situation and this season, it just hasn’t turned over.
“And I don’t have nobody to blame but myself.”
Struggles or not, Funchess and tight end Greg Olsen have made it clear that on the field and in the locker room they’re stepping up for Newton. Both clicked with him Sunday, with Olsen catching four passes on seven targets for 87 yards, and Funchess catching two passes on five targets for 33 yards and a touchdown.
“You guys know how I feel about Cam,” Olsen said. “We’ve been through a lot. We’ve played a lot together. And he’s my guy. We’ve had a lot of good plays, and some bad ones. But I feel like I always try to be there when he needs me.”
“That’s our quarterback. You can’t throw him under the bus,” Funchess said. “This is a game about changing on the run. It is what it is. We just got to keep fighting and get these last three out of the way.”