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Panthers QB Cam Newton continues to be consistently inconsistent

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Sometimes blitzing the QB works, sometimes it doesn’t

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NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Just when you think you have Panthers QB Cam Newton figured out he gashes you for a big play. That’s what the Vikings defense went through for four quarters this past Sunday.

Refocused: Carolina Panthers 31, Minnesota Vikings 24 | NFL Analysis | Pro Football Focus

QB CAM NEWTON, 71.3 OVERALL GRADE

If anything summed up this contest, it was the battle between the quarterbacks. Newton was largely outplayed by Case Keenum, but what he was able to do was make the big play when it mattered most. And none were more important than when he made Andrew Sendejo miss in the open field to set the Panthers up for the win. However, it would be wrong to ignore that Newton again struggled throwing the ball, completing just four passes further than 10 yards in the air. In games where the Panthers don’t win the turnover battle so comfortably, that won’t be good enough.

Yet they did win the turnover battle thanks to their stellar top 5 defense. That and some improved play along the Panthers offensive line led this win over the 10 win Vikings. Yet it’s the inconsistency in Newton’s passing game that leaves us guessing what to expect week to week. Blitzing Newton was effective the past few weeks but not so much versus the Vikings. Via PFF’s Elite stats we have Newton’s performance against the blitz.

​​Week 14 Panthers Offensive Stats

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton excelled on the nine dropbacks he faced pressure Sunday, completing four of seven passes for 56 yards and a touchdown with a 122.6 passer rating. When he didn’t face pressure, he had a 39.4 passer rating.

A majority of Newton’s passing production came over the middle. He completed seven of 14 pass attempts in between the numbers for 87 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Against the Saints the week before Newton completed three of 11 passes for 22 yards and a 39.6 passer rating when blitzed. A week before that against the blitz Newton completed nine of 19 passes for 143 yards with a passer rating of 72.9. Newton played lights out all around against the Dolphins but was better when not being blitzed. He was at his best when he didn’t face pressure, completing 16 of 25 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 128.8 when kept clean. Conversely, he had a passer rating of 98.3 when he faced pressure.

Back and forth, back and forth. For the record I would prefer teams blitz Newton because he’s so good at escaping the rush he can make the other team pay. Plus it means fewer defenders in the secondary.

I do have one theory about his latest performance though. Newton had the services of C Ryan Kalil for the first time since early in the season. I’m not trying to bash Tyler Larson as I think he played as well as could be expected while Kalil rehabbed. I think the offensive line had a good day as evidenced by the career day from RB Jonathan Stewart. If you are one of those fans who have been saying Stewart is washed up feel free to enter your apologies in the comment thread.

Stew still has the juice!

Here’s the remaining stats from PFF for the offense:

Running back Jonathan Stewart had six carries for 82 yards and a touchdown when he ran outside of the right tackle. Prior to Sunday, he averaged 2.92 yards per carry when he ran outside of the right tackle.

Wide receiver Devin Funchess averaged 2.27 receiving yards per route run and had a wide receiver rating of 112.5. Wide receiver rating is the passer rating generated by the QB when targeting that receiver.

Right tackle Daryl Williams registered an overall grade of 80.8, which ranks ninth among tackles in Week 14. He allowed only one pressure and closed with a pass-blocking efficiency of 97.2.

Keep pounding!