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Monday, October 7, 2013
Upon Further Review: Carolina Panthers

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- An examination of five hot issues from the Carolina Panthers' 22-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals:

Bench Newton: I was asked on Twitter if it was time to bench Cam Newton in favor of Derek Anderson after the franchise quarterback had three interceptions and a fumble against the Cardinals. The answer is no. Do that and you might as well trade the first pick of the 2011 draft. While Newton made more than his share of poor decisions, he started the game 5-for-5 for 70 yards and would have been 6-for-6 for 74 yards and a touchdown had Steve Smith not dropped a 4-yard touchdown pass. As badly as this turned out, Newton still gives the Panthers the best chance to win. And he had a streak of 10 straight games without multiple interceptions before this one.

Carolina's Cam Newton
Cam Newton tracks down Antoine Cason after Cason picked up a Newton fumble.
Hardy har har on me: I predicted defensive end Greg Hardy would have another stellar game facing second-year tackle Bradley Sowell, a former college teammate making his first NFL start. Oops. Hardy didn't have a sack and made only three tackles, one more than quarterback Cam Newton trying to atone for mistakes. Carolina's defensive front that had six of the seven sacks against the Giants had 1½. End Charles Johnson's only tackle was his sack of Carson Palmer. Not what one would expect out of a unit that prior to the game was being called one of the best in the NFL.

Blood, sweat and tears: Criticize if you want Newton for throwing three interceptions and fumbling. But few if any quarterbacks in the league would have run down two defenders -- one after an interception and another after a fumble -- to make the tackle as he did. "He was wiping blood off his hand one time in the huddle," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "I don't have any problems with him. There's not a whole lot of quarterbacks that are going to chase down the guy he threw an interception to. Those plays shows you how bad he wants to win."

Miscommunication: In case you thought Travelle Wharton was at fault on the sack and safety that came one play after he replaced injured (knee) left guard Amini Silatolu, think again. That one was on All-Pro center Ryan Kalil, who admittedly had a communication issue on the play as the pressure came right up the middle. Kalil thought he was going to have help, but took credit for not getting that information to the help. Newton didn't stand a chance as end Calais Campbell came in almost untouched for the tackle. That made it 12-6 and ignited the fourth-quarter meltdown.

Ups and downs: As bad as this one looked in the final score, the Panthers did a few things right. They rushed for 95 yards against a team that had been allowing 75. Newton passed for 308 yards and the Panthers led in total offense 353 yards to 250. As Gross said, "I know we're good and talented because we can get 270 yards of offense in the first half. We're just not an efficient machine here if that makes sense. Too many ups and downs." Makes perfect sense. But more downs than ups, which tends to make for down seasons.