There was a time when Cam Newton was an enigma holding back an explosive Carolina Panthers offense, throwing picks in the attempt to make plays and putting pressure on the defense to get stops. The script has flipped this season, with the offense going to a more conservative approach to feed off of and complement their dominant defense.
The offense has toned down dramatically compared to the two previous seasons. As a result, Cam hasn’t had to force plays to try and create that big play. Instead, he has learned to check the ball down and concentrate on one first down at a tie. As a result, Carolina is one of the best in the league in time of possession, not mention third and fourth-down conversions.
Carolina’s shift in focus on offense isn’t only about the brilliance of defense; it’s also about the ineptitude of the offense. Carolina lacks any kind of explosive playmaker at the wide receiver position, aside from an occasional mid-range touchdown to Ted Ginn Jr.
Steve Smith hasn’t been the same player this year and Greg Olsen is more reliable than explosive, and that lack of playmaking ability prevents the Panthers from being able to get chunk yards.
That would be fine if the running game could generate big plays, but despite the talent in the backfield, the offensive can’t block up front, let alone get to the second level to spring a big gain.
The lone playmaker on the offense, the lone thing that keep this motley crew together, is Cam Newton. Neither the receivers nor the running back are able to produce and the offensive line can’t block anyone right now, yet Newton somehow pulls it out.
Repeatedly, he has taken his flawed offense and marched them down the field late on the game, getting first downs all by himself at times, to get the game the game-winning score. Nothing is more valuable to a team than a quarterback who can lead them to victory, especially if he can do it in spite of a sub-par supporting cast.
The defense has phenomenal this season, but no one can win a game without scoring points, and Newton has been able to bring his offense to do that almost by himself.
While Newton might not be able to compete with Peyton Manning, his ability to not only raise the level of his team, but to raise them to victory, should get him a few votes for MVP.