Cam Newton has had much better days than his Sunday in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings.
While the 2015 NFL MVP started the game a perfect 8-of-8 passing for 123 yards, helping the Carolina Panthers to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, things went south in a hurry. He finished the game 21-of-35 passing with 262 passing yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions, as the Vikings pulled away for a 22-10 win.
The 47.6 passer rating is his worst since October 2014, but the bigger concern for the Panthers may be the quarterback’s health. Newton appeared to suffer a left ankle injury early against the Vikings on Sunday, although he only missed one snap.
The injury occurred when Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph attempted to bring down Newton and landed on the quarterback’s left foot. While Newton struggled to walk it off and limped off the field, he jogged up and down the sidelines and re-entered the game after allowing Derek Anderson to take over for just one a snap.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson suffered an ankle injury in Week 2, but also stayed in the game even though his mobility was severely affected. Newton has long been one of the most durable and tough quarterbacks in the NFL, and his ability to move didn’t appear to be significantly affected, but he wasn’t a difficult target for the Vikings to hit, as he was sacked eight times.
It was also a frustrating day for Kelvin Benjamin, a 6'5 receiving machine with 13 receptions and three touchdowns in the first two weeks, but zero receptions on Sunday.
"It starts with me as the signal caller," Newton told reporters after the game. "For [Benjamin] to not have any touches is baffling."
The Vikings have already dealt out a couple bad games for good quarterbacks early in the 2016 season, keeping Aaron Rodgers off his game for most of Week 2. Rodgers finished a loss to Minnesota with 20 completions on 36 passes for 213 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Strong defense has been a must for Minnesota while the team deals with an enormous amount of destruction on offense. Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, and Matt Kalil all had knee surgeries, leaving the Vikings to scramble to put together an offense able to put points on the board for a team that is otherwise a Super Bowl contender. Through three weeks, the plan has been successful and the Vikings are 3-0.
The loss for the Panthers drops them to 1-2, already more losses than the entire 15-1 campaign in 2015. With easier games ahead on the schedule and no clear favorite running away with the NFC South, it’s far from panic time for the Panthers, but the team’s 2016 season hasn’t gone as smoothly as it did a year ago.