For the first time in more than a year (Week 2, 2016), Newton tossed for more than 310 passing yards. He tallied season highs in completion percentage (75.9), yards per pass attempt (10.9), touchdown tosses (3) and passer rating (130.8). All those stats were strides better than the previous three games this season when the Panthers offense struggled.
Newton looked like his 2015-self, whipping the ball down the field, scampering over defenders on rushes, and spreading the ball around.
Coach Ron Rivera credited Newton’s increased practice workload for the breakout game.
“As I’ve said, the thing we’ve been waiting for is for him to be able to practice every day and work on his timing,” Rivera said. “He was still rusty. He missed a couple throws early on. But the three days of practice were as good as we’ve had.
“He’s still not where he needs to be, but we’re going to be smart with him, we’re going to continue with whatever our new normal is in terms of his weekly exercise, but if we continue to have these types of weeks, I think he’s going to continue to get his timing down.”
Yes, facing a New England defense that couldn’t stop a toddler on a tricycle aided Carolina’s sudden offensive outburst. Nonetheless, Sunday the Panthers opened the playbook more which unleashed Newton, and displayed an offense that is making progress each game.
“It just takes time. People have to realize — I have to realize — that it takes time,” Newton said. “This offense isn’t cereal or quick grits or instant grits. This is a full on entree.”
Sitting tied atop the NFC South at 3-1, the Panthers face a pair of fellow 3-1 teams the next two weeks (Detroit, Philadelphia). We’ll see if Sunday’s outburst was a flash in the pan against a poor defense or an offensive awakening.