Stephen White: In other news it looks like calling out your coaching staff is the new hotness in Buffalo. First, Sammy Watkins comes out last week and pretty much demands to be targeted more in the offense, a pretty bold move for a player who has been as banged up as he has so far in his career. Even doubly so considering he was coming off a game he missed due to injury.
After having lost to the Bengals, a game in which Watkins was targeted more -- but then left the game with an injury -- the Bills' two $100 million men on their defensive line, Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus, both called out their head coach/defensive coordinator for dropping the defensive linemen into coverage too much instead of letting them rush the passer.
I have already written about this, so people probably know I actually agree with all three of the players on the merits of their arguments. Danny, how do you feel about players calling out their coaches like this? Me personally I just don't think it's a good look. I don't know if they tried to sit down and talk to their coaches before they came out to the media like this, but there has to be a better way in my opinion, especially just six games into the season. But I am admittedly a little old school, so maybe I just am not keeping up with the times.
What say you?
Danny Kelly: As for the public calling out of coaches, again, I agree that it's a bad look. It was a little surprising to me that it happened in Buffalo because of Rex Ryan's public perception as a "players' coach." You'd have thought that a private meeting with Rex would've squared things away, but for all we know, maybe Watkins, Williams and Dareus already stated their case in private and got nowhere with it. The public pressure plan might have been their last resort, collectively. No way of knowing now, but it does paint a picture of dysfunction and points to potential issues in the locker room when you have players going on record disagreeing or calling out the coaching staff. Worse, maybe Williams and Dareus saw how Watkins' on-the-record complaints worked, and that emboldened them to make their statements. That could be a sign of more discord to come. We'll see. Winning does tend to fix all maladies, at least temporarily.
Give Cam Newton his due
Danny: Switching gears, I know that the Seahawks' fourth-quarter collapses are a part of a bigger pattern, and because of that it feels like Cam Newton hasn't gotten his due credit for engineering a damn impressive comeback in Seattle on Sunday.
It wasn't just the fourth quarter either -- Newton led the pretty much weaponless Panthers on four 80-yard drives in that game, helping Carolina move the ball at will by being an integral part of the run game and obviously in the passing game. He played smart in that area while running the read option, sliding and diving to avoid hits, and making some big-time throws to guys named Jerricho Cotchery, Corey Brown, Devin Funchess, Ed Dickson and Ted Ginn. That's not exactly an elite group, especially when you're going against the Legion Of Boom.
Newton threw two picks and looked pretty limited at times as he tried to push the ball down field -- that will happen when you have few weapons and are facing the Seahawks -- but you have to give him credit for hanging tough and getting better as the game went on. In the past several meetings against the Seahawks, the Panthers had collapsed late -- Newton famously threw a pick-six to Kam Chancellor in last year's playoffs to seal the Seahawks' win -- but in this one, he made some amazing throws and showed really impressive resiliency. Have we seen Newton turn a corner, and are people still underestimating the Panthers?
Stephen: Yes, I think we have seen Cam Newton turn a corner, and on a number of fronts for that matter. Jonathan Stewart scored two rushing touchdowns, so Newton finally hasn't accounted for all of the Panthers' offensive touchdowns this year, which was just absurd I must say again. He is still making everybody better on that offense. That includes an offensive line that hasn't been perfect, but Newton has been so good with his feet this season that they still haven't given up a bunch of sacks. In fact, Newton has been sacked 10 times so far this season, which is less than half of the number of sacks Russell Wilson has taken.
I actually thought this would be the maturation in Newton's game that we would see from him last season, but I also believe in hindsight that most of us did not properly account for how much the ankle surgery would nag him. That's before we even get to the traffic accident he was involved in. For a dude who is usually very light on his feet at times, but also very physical, not being able to do both I'm sure drove him nuts. Now, we see what a healthy Cam Newton who is the unquestioned leader of the offense can do in that role, and the results have so far been fantastic.
Of all the ways people might have envisioned the Panthers beating the Seahawks last Sunday, Newton identifying and exploiting a flaw in the Seahawks pass coverage for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter would have been pretty low on that list. The read and the throw were both perfect and I think that was Newton's nationwide introduction into the MVP conversation this year. No, it wasn't one of the prime time games, but it was a marquee late afternoon matchup and with Red Zone and the NFL Sunday Ticket lots of people saw Newton's performance and it would be hard to watch what he pulled off and not be impressed in my opinion.