Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had no interest Wednesday in revisiting last year’s 45-21 loss at Philadelphia.
And no wonder.
Newton was sacked a career-high nine times and lost four turnovers in a Monday night blowout that Newton chalked up to “a lack of execution on all fronts.”
With the Eagles (3-3) preparing to face Carolina (5-0) in another prime-time matchup Sunday, it was interesting Wednesday to hear of Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly’s reluctance to put too much stock in last year’s game, either, at least where Newton was concerned.
“I think we faced a different Cam,” Kelly said during a conference call. “Cam had an ankle injury last year. He looks like he’s very healthy this year, so I think the game will express itself in a different manner. We haven’t spent a lot of time looking at last year just because I don’t think Cam was at 100 percent last year when we played them.”
Newton battled a series of injuries during 2014, beginning with offseason ankle surgery. He cracked his ribs during the preseason and dealt with injuries to his toe, thumb and back as the season went on.
We haven’t spent a lot of time looking at last year just because I don’t think Cam (Newton) was at 100 percent last year when we played them.
Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly
If Newton was less than 100 percent before the Philadelphia game, he felt worse after being battered at Lincoln Financial Field.
Eagles outside linebacker Connor Barwin accounted for 3.5 sacks while being used as a spy against Newton throughout the game. Barwin stood at various points along the line – and at middle linebacker occasionally – and would rush Newton if he stayed in the pocket or wait for him to scramble and try to beat him to the sideline.
Barwin said other factors contributed to his big night: Good coverage in the secondary that forced Newton to hold the ball, a loud crowd and a relentless pass rush from the rest of the front seven.
Carolina’s patched-together offensive line had no answers for the pass rush, and the nine sacks allowed tied a franchise record.
The Panthers line that will start Sunday night’s game will include three players who did not start last year against Philadelphia – right guard Trai Turner and tackles Mike Remmers and Michael Oher.
“There’s three new guys, which obviously make a huge difference,” Barwin said. “It looks like they’ve had the same group all year. They’re really executing well. They’re running the ball well. And then they’re doing a great job protecting Cam and letting him make plays down the field.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the Eagles’ use of a spy became moot when Carolina fell in an early hole and was passing nearly every play.
“When the games get to a certain point, all that other stuff changes,” Rivera said. “The way the game went I’m not sure they needed to” spy.
When the games get to a certain point, all that other stuff changes. The way the game went I’m not sure they needed to (spy).
Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, on the Eagles strategy in 2014 that led to nine sacks of Cam Newton
Kelly seemed to suggest the Eagles would use a spy again Sunday to keep Newton from escaping the pocket and running for big gains.
“He’s obviously a legitimate dual-threat quarterback and he’s just so big,” Kelly said of Newton, who is 6-foot-5 and plays at about 260 pounds.
“He’s different than any other dual-threat that is tough to kind of corral. With Cam, you may have him and hit him, but he isn’t going down. And then he explodes out of there and you better have somebody being on top of him to contain him a little bit because he is a dangerous threat running the football.”
Barwin (6-4, 264) referred to Newton as a “big fella.”
“He weighs about as much as I do and I think he’s an inch or 2 taller,” Barwin said. “He can run. He can obviously make big plays. And right now it looks like he’s really confident with the ball and running really well with the ball.”
Newton is averaging 10 carries a game, up from his career average of about seven per game.
It’s weird to watch film from the teams we played last year and see me gimping and limping around. Now it’s different. I can focus on different things.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton
Unlike last season when Newton was receiving treatment “just to make it to Sunday,” game weeks this year are more productive since he’s not spending all his time in the training room.
“It’s weird to watch film from the teams we played last year and see me gimping and limping around,” Newton said. “Now it’s different. I can focus on different things. Watch more film, pay attention to not only defensive keys but doing a self-scout on us. What we’re doing too much (of) or is there a specific something that’s giving away what we’re doing.”
Newton said he doesn’t always know when a team is employing a spy against him because he has his eyes downfield, but he said he won’t change anything if the Eagles use Barwin in that capacity again Sunday.
“I take what’s given,” Newton said. “If there’s an opportunity for me to run, I do.”