Cam Newton isn’t playing like an NFL MVP. Through the first four games of the season, he had six touchdown passes to five interceptions and the Panthers were 1-3. The Panthers took a number of gambles with the roster that now appear to be losing, and Newton hasn’t been Superman enough to will Carolina to win. Few people could be.
But on Sunday, he was. Or nearly was, and only after a bad start. Newton is a genetically-engineered red zone machine, with size, speed, and of course a great arm, but he threw a red zone interception intended for Devin Funchess in the second quarter that suggested that the Panthers were headed for another disaster. They were down 21-0 at the time.
The Panthers’ secondary was repeatedly torched, most embarrassingly by Brandin Cooks on an 87-yard touchdown reception. Drew Brees had 465 yards passing and four touchdowns. And still, the Panthers were able to get back in this game.
The offense roared back to life, thanks in large part to Newton making plays out of nothing. He threw one touchdown pass on an incredible awkward jump pass.
He tied the game in the fourth quarter on a two-yard rush before completing a two-point conversion to Funchess.
Newton accounted for three total touchdowns and a pivotal conversion. It was a quintessential Newton game, but unlike last season it wasn’t enough for a win. The Saints drove 41 yards in 11 plays after taking over possession to set up a 52-yard field goal that would prove to be the game winner.
The Saints don’t appear to be massively improved team. They have the same explosive offense and defensive issues they’ve had for a long time. The Panthers were worse equipped to handle them defensively, however. The Saints managed 380 and 334 total yards in two meetings with the Panthers last season, and had 523 on Sunday.
It’s still fun as hell to watch Newton try to be Superman. Unfortunately, we may not see him win many more games until the Panthers fix the crippling issues they’ve sewn into the defense.