Cam Newton made history, regained his swagger against Patriots’ awful defense

Cam Newton made history, regained his swagger against Patriots’ awful defense

Cam Newton didn’t have a good 2016. His 2017 wasn’t going much better — until he faced the reigning Super Bowl champions.

Newton carved up the Patriots defense in Week 4, throwing for 316 yards and leading a Panthers offense that had scored 45 total points through three games to a 33-point explosion and an upset victory. The difference between Newton’s start to the season and his performance Sunday is stark – and it paints a grim picture for Bill Belichick’s team.

More importantly, he came up big when his team needed him the most. The Patriots rebounded from a ~3% win probability to battle back from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit. That put the ball in Newton’s hands with 3:09 left to play in a 30-30 tie.

Newton calmly and methodically marched downfield, using his legs to create space and converting a huge third-and-3 pass to Devin Funchess to put his team on the brink of field goal range — and more importantly, prevent a punt that would have given Brady a chance to lead another comeback drive. After three running plaays, Graham Gano hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired to give the Panthers their biggest win of the season.

Some of Newton’s success could be attributed to a healing shoulder and increased accuracy. Another big factor in the best game of his season was the glaring deficiency of the Patriots’ defense. New England blew coverages all afternoon, leaving players like Kelvin Benjamin and Fozzy Whittaker untouched for big gains downfield. A neutered pass rush failed to contain Newton, who kept drives alive with his feet.

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Another sack — one that would have squashed Carolina’s two-minute drill hopes — was wiped out by hands-to-the-face penalty on Stephon Gilmore. Minutes later, a defensive hold on Patrick Chung helped push the Panthers into field goal range. Whatever Brady did to keep his team in this game, his defense worked to erase.

Or, in simpler terms:

Opposing quarterbacks came into Sunday’s game having racked up three straight 300-plus yard passing performances against the Patriots. Newton was happy to extend that streak. But he didn’t just reclaim Carolina’s status as an NFC playoff hopeful. He also made history.

That’s an impressive figure, made even better by the fact Newton is just 28 years old. A trip to New England was just what the young veteran and the Panthers’ offense needed to regain its spark. That’s great news for Carolina – and a troubling result for the Patriots.

Highlights from Week 4 in the NFL