A mobile Cam Newton kept the New England defense on its heels Monday night.
Run for your life: ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said early Monday that quarterback Cam Newton's ability to run was his strength. He wasn't concerned about how many carries the first pick of the 2011 draft got during his first two seasons, as Hall of Famer John Madden expressed to Carolina coach Ron Rivera during the offseason. Newton proved Gruden right, running four times on third down for 56 yards. Each time he converted a first down, including a 14-yarder in the third quarter that ESPN Stats & Information determined took 75.8 yards to accomplish and a 15-yarder on the game-winning drive. Newton has scrambled 31 times for a first down, the most in the league since he was drafted.
Leg whipped: Defensive tackle Charles Johnson missed most of the second half after New England's Marcus Cannon leg whipped him early in the third quarter. Cannon likely will be fined when the play is reviewed by league officials. Carolina's more immediate concern is Johnson. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI on the knee that was struck. Asked if he might miss playing time, Johnson responded, "I don't know." But Johnson did return for the final series that ended with rookie safety Robert Lester intercepting a pass. He came back in part because he felt the team needed him and it was important to gut it out. "It gave us a little bit of a boost," Rivera said. Statistics bear that out. Tom Brady was under duress four times on the final 11-play drive. Before the final drive he had been pressured on four of his previous 31 dropbacks (12.9 percent).
Penalty or not: A lot of analysts and New England fans are screaming that the officials got it wrong when they waived off a pass interference penalty on Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly guarding tight end Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone on the final play. As you can see on the replay, the two were so close they looked like dance partners at the prom. The officials waived it off because, under the letter of the law, the ball has to be catchable. It was underthrown and picked off. But few are pointing out that the Patriots still would have had to score on one play with no time left on the clock to change the outcome.
Best in NFL: The Carolina defense that came in ranked second in the NFL in general didn't have one of its better efforts. There were more missed tackles than usual and huge gaps in the middle of the field at times for Brady to find receivers. But Kuechly and Thomas Davis didn't hurt their reputation as being two of the best linebackers in the league. Davis had a game-high 17 tackles and Kuechly added 12.
Double trouble? What happened to Carolina's running game against the league's 30th-ranked run defense? Backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert combined for 41 yards, with Tolbert leading the way with 17. Were it not for Newton's 62 yards the average per rush would have been 2.5 instead of 4.5. Williams, who averaged 97 yards rushing in the first three games, hasn't had more than 46 yards in any of the past five games. This is not the more traditional run offense the Panthers were building toward and need moving forward.