The Arizona Cardinals likely didn’t head into the first week of the season expecting a team that went 2-14 the season prior to put up much of a fight. But that’s exactly what the Panthers did on Sunday, with rookie QB Cam Newton busting out in a huge way in his first NFL start.
Newton set a new record for the most yards ever by a QB in his first start, throwing for 422 yards, 2 TDs and one INT. Newton also ran eight times for 18 yards and one TD. It was perhaps one of the most spectacular debuts for a rookie QB in recent memory, if not in the last couple of decades.
The offensive line and running game appeared to struggle on Sunday, with Newton having the only rushing TD of the game and the rest of the RBs combining for only 56 yards. The offensive line was constantly pressured by the Cardinals, and more often than not, the Cards won the battle and ended up either rushing Newton or sacking him. Newton was sacked four times and hit on seven occasions.
Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb and Panthers WR Steve Smith also looked sharp on Sunday.
In his first start for Arizona, Kolb raised eyebrows around the league, going 18/27 with 309 yards and two TDs. Smith, in his first regular season game with Newton, had eight catches for 178 yards and two TDs, one coming on a 77 yard pass from Newton.
The Panthers have a daunting opponent ahead of them next week in the Green Bay Packers. Newton went a long way towards silencing a few of his critics on Sunday, but the remaining few will look to next week’s game against the defending champions as a true test of Newton’s abilities. After coming up just short this week in search of his first NFL win, one has to think Newton will be plenty hungry next week.
Whether that will translate into his first win remains to be seen.