Scott Fowler

Healthy Cam Newton needed as Panthers’ foes grow tougher

I wonder about Cam Newton’s health as the Panthers go into next week. Newton didn’t come out for his press conference until more than an hour had elapsed. He was clearly getting treatment. And during the press conference itself, he cringed several times and seemed to be gimpy and in some pain.

Newton will have to play better next week for Carolina to win, because there are no more Ryan Lindleys on the Panthers schedule. It’s either Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, and it’s going to be a lot harder. Newton was very tough Saturday on some of his third-down runs and he did throw for 198 yards and two TDs. But he also turned the ball over twice and missed a number of open receivers.

Newton said after the game that he had decided there would be “no sliding on third downs” in the playoffs and that he, along with his teammates were “throwing our (bodies) all over the place.”

• It was a fine and very loud crowd given the drizzle that fell most of the afternoon, but it certainly wasn’t as hot a ticket as the Panthers’ playoff game vs. San Francisco was a year ago. You didn’t have to work that hard outside the stadium to get a ticket for face value. The ones who came, though, got a better show.

• Charles Johnson has been an absolutely extraordinary player for Carolina for the last month. And Panther linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis were both superb as usual.

• Just as Ron Rivera’s news conference began, almost all the lights went out. Everyone started grumbling, including me. Who was idiotic enough to turn off the lights right when everyone was on deadline and delaying the press conference?

Suddenly, I had a sinking feeling as I felt a light switch behind my right shoulder blade. Yes, that idiot was me.

• You would think referee Ed Hochuli would have some sense of when to turn his mic on and off after all these years, but no. His references – twice! – to an instant-replay official nicknamed “Jungle Boy” provided two of the game's most nonsensical and funny moments.