Carolina Panthers' Week 5 Difference Makers

By Rich Welch
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers had a lot of momentum going into Week 5, still riding the satisfaction of a record-breaking win against the Giants and fresh and rested after the bye week, but it simply didn’t show up on Sunday in Phoenix. The Panthers looked very efficient at times and seemed primed for a win after the first half, but the team continuously missed opportunities and made big mistakes in big moments, while the Cardinals’ aggressive defense more than compensated for their offense’s ineptitude. These teams seemed to be about equal coming into the game, so what made the difference?

Pass Crush

The Panthers’ front seven had a lot of hype coming into the game after getting seven sacks against the Giants, but the script seemed flipped on Sunday. The Cardinals got to Cam Newton seven times and also sacked him for a safety, throwing around the Panthers’ offensive linemen like rag dolls. Some of the blame has to go on Newton and the receivers, though, because the receivers had some serious trouble getting open in the infamous second half, leaving Newton to hold on to the ball and get dropped or picked. The Panthers’ front seven, on the other hand, was good in the first half but fell apart in the second, failing to generate a pass rush or slow down Andre Ellington.

Dead Zone

The Panthers offense seemed very efficient throughout the game, but it completely disintegrated in the red zone. The Panthers had almost 100 more yards than the Cardinals going into the second half, but they were only up by three, due in large part to the offense’s inability to convert. Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell both dropped critical first half passes that forced the Panthers to settle for field goals, and Newton gave the ball away a few times as well in the second half. This continues the offensive theme that seemingly ended after the Giants game but now has resurfaced, much to the chagrin of Ron Rivera.

The Cam Dam

Cam Newton has wowed us at times, but Sunday was just another example of his glaring weaknesses. Newton becomes an enigma at critical points in games, forcing the ball instead of throwing it away and becoming disturbingly inaccurate in the red zone. There have been games when Newton has posted mind-blowing statistics, but those performances seem few and far between now. Newton’s almost bipolar inconsistency bounces between efficient but ineffective to dynamic but turnover-prone, and both styles frequently end up in a loss. Don’t expect the Panthers to pick up a quarterback in the draft this year, especially with the glaring needs in the secondary and at receiver, but Newton is most definitely on the hot seat, sharing it with the man who brought him in: Ron Rivera.

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