Five-man fronts continue to haunt Newton

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
10:30
PM ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Cam Newton was styling with a few layers of clothes covering his upper torso during Sunday's postgame interview, counting his jacket, sweater, shirt and tie.

If a defensive coordinator had dressed him there would have been another layer.

According to ESPN statistics, five is the magic number when it comes to pressuring the Carolina Panthers quarterback.

Newton had faced five or more rushers a league-high 44 percent of his dropbacks coming into Sunday's 22-6 loss to Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Cardinals rushed five or more players 60 percent of the time for seven sacks, the most in the NFL against that kind of a front in six seasons.

Facing five or more rushers, Newton has thrown two touchdowns and been intercepted four times, three coming against Arizona. He also had a fumble against the Cardinals.

Against other fronts he has four touchdowns and one interception.

So, what's the problem? Does Newton have trouble reading defenses with five or more rushers? Does the offensive line have trouble picking up the rush?

It's probably a combination of both. As left tackle Jordan Gross said, when a quarterback is sacked seven times the "O-line didn't block the guys.'' As head coach Ron Rivera said, "Sometimes not taking the sack, throwing the ball away, that could help.''

Rivera also said "we have to make better decisions as far as the quarterback is concerned.''

Bottom line? This is a look teams will continue to use until Newton and the Panthers(1-3) prove they can handle it.

"There are a lot of things that I feel I could have done better,'' Newton said. "Getting the ball out is one of them. It's just me going through my reads more fluently.''

To be fair, Newton was 5-for-6 passing against at least five rushers in the first quarter. He was sacked only once and had no interceptions.

But in the final three quarters he went 5-for-14 against that front with three interceptions and six sacks.

Keep in mind that Newton began the game 5-for-5 for 70 yards and would have been 6-for-6 for 74 yards and a touchdown had wide receiver Steve Smith not dropped a pass in the end zone.

He also had a drop by Brandon LaFell in the second quarter inside the Arizona 15.

So to say the five-man front dictated the outcome wouldn't be totally accurate because the Panthers could have had a two-touchdown lead and dictated everything.

But there is no doubt that for Newton to become the quarterback he wants to be and the Panthers want him to be they have to figure out the five-man front.

"It's hard to win in this league as it is,'' Newton said. "We can't help them out by mishaps and missed opportunities.''

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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