The Panthers’ dual-threat quarterback is back.
Coaches and trainers had kept the wraps on Cam Newton for four games as he continued to recover from offseason ankle surgery. But after what Newton called “an unbelievable week of rehab,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula turned him loose on a series of designed draws, counters and zone-read keepers. The Panthers’ offense is clearly more dynamic and dangerous when Newton is a threat to run. They established season highs in points, yards (431) and rushing yards (147).
There are still issues with the run defense.
The Panthers’ defense continues to get gashed by the run, allowing 193 rushing yards and a 6.2 yards-per-carry average. Nearly half of those yards came on Gio Bernard’s 89-yard touchdown run, the longest rush allowed by the Panthers in team history. The problem isn’t necessarily missed tackles. It’s players getting out of position, as was the case with linebacker Thomas Davis and safety Thomas DeCoud on Bernard’s burst. The Panthers need to fix it.
The secondary isn’t without its problems, either.
The Panthers played without starting corner Josh Norman (concussion) and first-team nickel back Bené Benwikere (ankle), and their replacements struggled. Melvin White allowed Mohamed Sanu to get behind him for a 34-yard touchdown catch on a play when White never turned around to see the ball. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the first half picked on veteran Charles Godfrey, who replaced Benwikere lining up against the slot. And while corner Antoine Cason had an 80-yard interception return, he also was out of position on James Wright’s long catch near the end of overtime.