With 2:24 left in the 2nd quarter and the Panthers holding a seemingly slim 10-0 lead Steve Smith went up for a pass that fell incomplete. Smitty hit the turf in what appeared at first to be a fairly normal play. Instead of bouncing up in typical Smitty 'tough As Nails' fashion though he stayed on the ground in obvious pain:
Thousands of Panther fans held their collective breath at this point. As time went on, the longer he stayed on the ground the more we worried we became. It was highly unusual because Smitty always pops up, even if he's hurt.
Then QB Cam Newton came over and peered intently and for a brief moment you could tell by the look on his face he was really concerned.
Was it at this point Newton suddenly realized he could be without his fireplug WR for the rest of the game? Though Smitty would finally get up and walk it off it did seem to have an effect on Newton. Whereas before he was tentative to throw the ball to anyone besides Smith or Olsen he proceeded to throw two TD passes to Brandon LaFell and the route was on.
Both passes to LaFell had tight windows and were not easy to make. Newton threw them anyway without the hesitation he was displaying earlier. As Newton would say, he started to show some 'swagger'. As we all know, when Newton gets his swagger going it usually means good things for the Panthers and their prospects for scoring points.
Might this be a turning point for Newton and the Panthers offense for the season? Only time will tell but the Panthers hit the road this week for two games against the Cardinals and Vikings before returning how to face the Rams. If only Newton could somehow bottle up that swagger for the road trip right? I'm hopeful this was not only a key turning point for the game but for the Panthers offense as a whole.