Newton was shaken up by a blow from Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins on a 7-yard scamper toward the end of the second quarter. Trainers examined Newton on the sideline, and the quarterback missed just one play before rejoining the offense. Newton came out for the first series of the third quarter, then spent the rest of the game in the locker room.
After the game, coach Ron Rivera said Newton sustained a back contusion, and that X-rays were negative. Newton completed 8 of 12 passes for 88 yards. Here are some other thoughts on the game:
The Carolina defense started out strong, forcing punts on the Patriots' first two drives -- one of which was a three-and-out -- and allowing a field goal on the third. Once Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly left the game, however, the Patriots took advantage en route to four straight scoring drives. One of those drives, the first without Kuechly, was a 14-play, 91-yard touchdown march with a time of possession of 7:24.
Starting left tackle Byron Bell, trusted with protecting Newton's blind side, could not stop Chandler Jones. The third-year defensive end recorded two sacks by zipping around Bell, and also made two big stops against the run.
With starting RT Nate Chandler (knee) and RG Trai Turner (groin) out for the Panthers, Garry Williams and Chris Scott got the nod. Williams seemed to have a hard time maintaining his pass protection. On two of the sacks by Jones, Williams and Scott also could not maintain their blocks on the right side as pressure broke down across the line. The duo looked more comfortable with run blocking, but failed to spring any big holes for the backs.
Newton established an early rapport with rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin as the two connected five times on six targets for 47 yards, including two catches on Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis. With Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant slated as the other top receivers, Newton needs another player to emerge. While Brenton Bersin did not take snaps with Newton, he ran some great routes, showed strong hands and found space to haul in two catches from quarterback Derek Anderson.
The Panthers are shuffling safeties Anderson Russell and Robert Lester while Roman Harper recovers from a toe injury. Russell struggled in coverage on numerous occasions; two instances stood out, when wide receiver Julian Edelman beat Russell on back-to-back plays for 18 and 35 yards, igniting a Patriots drive that led to a touchdown. Lester looked more comfortable when moving up to the line of scrimmage, as seen on a nice tackle of running back James White while shedding a block to the inside.
Undrafted rookie Philly Brown and the Panthers' return game couldn't get anything going, as Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski blasted his kickoffs through the end zone.