Newton Breaks More Records, But Needs More Help

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 18: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers drops back to pass against the Green Bay Packers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Cam Newton called it "mind-boggling." He could have been looking at his stat sheet.

A week after he debuted with a 422-yard performance in Arizona, Newton threw for 432 yards against the Super Bowl champion Packers.

Newton's the first NFL quarterback to start his career with two 400-yard games. Only six other quarterbacks in NFL history have gone over 400 in back-to-back games.

But Newton's "mind-boggling" comment wasn't aimed at another week of broken records and ridiculous stats. Instead, he was referring to the stat that matters most: the Panthers are 0-2.

"Whether it is a penalty, whether is it a bad decision, you just have to get it right," Newton said.

Newton's three interceptions against the Packers were products of either questionable decisions or bad mechanics. And while it's nice to let him learn on the fly, the Panthers aren't doing enough on the ground to help their young quarterback.

"That's not my job," Newton said. "I think we need to execute better, and I think me personally, I need to step up my play."

The mistakes are going to happen and Newton could be better off for it down the road. But right now, the Panthers need to take some pressure off his shoulders.

 

Through two weeks, he's thrown 83 passes. Meanwhile, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have combined for 30 carries.

"This is not the same offense that we had for the last four or five years," Williams said. "This is a different regime, a different passing attack, a different attack all together."

The biggest benefactor of "Double Trouble's" reduced role is Steve Smith.

In the previous two seasons, Smith grew increasingly frustrated with his lack of touches. Through two weeks this season, he's averaging seven catches and 167 yards a game.

"I'm not going to complain about this offense," Smith said. "This is the offense. It's a pass first, run second and that's who we are."

So it's not like the Panthers have an identity crisis. They're just changing identities too quickly and to an extreme.

"I don't think anybody in this organization wants us to rush for under a hundred and throw for 400 every week," Panthers tackle Jordan Gross said. "We gotta do better on the ground. We gotta take pressure of Cam. We gotta let him hand the ball off 20, 25 times a game. That's what we're supposed to do and we're not doing that right now."

Even when the Panthers have tried to run with Williams or Stewart, the holes haven't been there. And while this offense will never turn into a John Fox "run the ball until it works" kind of offense, Rod Chudzinski may want to at least pretend he'd like to establish some sort of run game.

"I'd be concerned if we weren't throwing for about 400 yards a game," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "But since we're converting and making plays downfield and throwing the ball it's just a matter of time. It's going to happen and when it does it should pop."

Newton now has two of the top three single-game passing performances in franchise history. Sunday he broke Chris Weinke's all-time record from 2006. The thing is, all three of those games have been Panthers losses.

A fan base that fell into a deep slumber last year has been awakened. Newton's huge stats have turned doubters into believers. But eventually, these new-look Panthers have to find a better balance.

This season is mostly about developing Newton. But the kid can't do it all by himself, even though he may want to.

"I'm not the person to sit up here and say 'well, we have next time.' I want to get it right, and I'm going to get it right right now."

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