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Panthers Film Room: Cam Newton’s 0/8 start against the Falcons is a product of his poor supporting talent

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NFL: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Author’s note: Happy New Year to the entire CSR community. I appreciate all of your comments, suggestions, and mentions during my first season writing for this awesome site.

There have been the usual amount of hot takes filtering the internet during the last 48 hours thanks to a disappointing performance by Carolina’s offense. I am not here to defend Cam Newton’s performance on Sunday, but I am here to tell you that he’s not the problem - it’s the surrounding talent (or lack thereof).

Newton’s first eight incompletions

Newton’s first eight incompletions were a perfect encapsulation of the current predicament facing this offense. When Cam had time, the receivers weren’t getting open. When a receiver was schemed open, the offensive line let Newton down.

After Christian McCaffrey motions into the slot, him and Devin Funchess run a stick flat combination. Newton’s primary read is to McCaffrey, but Atlanta picks him up. Newton goes through his other reads, but nothing is open. He has to scramble and throw it away. Keep a close eye on Greg Olsen. The Falcons did a tremendous job on him.

Carolina’s first third down of the game had both outside wide receivers running double moves against Atlanta’s cover 3 defense. On this play, Devin Funchess runs a great route. However, Newton has no time to target him due to the interior pressure. Yes, Newton overthrows McCaffrey. That’s not the point though. He was likely the third read in the progression and when Newton has to scramble to avoid pressure he can’t deliver an accurate ball.

Matt Kalil and Andrew Norwell have miscommunication in picking up the stunt, which leads to the pressure. This was on the offensive line.

The Panthers run a slant flat combo to the strong side. Cam throws an accurate ball to Kaelin Clay, but Clay gets bodied by Robert Alford. This has been a consistent theme with Clay. He does not handle physicality well at all.

Cam’s fourth incompletion came on another slant flat combination. Funchess is the target this time, but Alford literally runs the route for him. I’m not saying this was a bad play call, but I’m not saying it was a great one either.

Carolina is in a 3x1 formation. Funchess runs a deep dig route across the middle. He gets matched by Desmond Trufant. The protection was fine. The throw was fine. The result was another incomplete pass.

I am not one to complain about non penalties, but this looks pretty egregious.

This was Cam’s first real bad throw during his start to the game. However, the context of the pass needs to be said. It’s a stick flat combo that I showed earlier. The primary reads are Olsen and Artis-Payne, but neither get open. The pressure from the edge forces Newton to redirect in the pocket. Funchess is open, but Newton doesn’t deliver an accurate throw.

McCaffrey had a rough game catching the football.

Newton targets Olsen who is isolated in a 3x1 formation. Olsen runs a hitch route at the first down marker, but Atlana is prepared. They essentially have multiple defenders bracketing him. This throw had no chance. The pressure also affected Newton from reading the trips side. Although, the receivers to that side were also covered.

The offense was able to execute an impressive two minute drive to close the half, but the remainder of the game was as consistent as the start. The receivers were having communication issues, the pressure was forcing Newton to quicken his processing speed, and Cam also missed some throws.

There will be plenty of talk about Newton’s surrounding talent this off season, but the Panthers are in the playoffs. These are the guys who Newton will be throwing to next week. The margin for error in this offense is razor thin. Newton is expected to overcome an average offensive line, one of the worst receiving corps in the league, and make incredibly difficult tight window throws. He can and has elevated the talent around him, but the personnel around him is so mediocre that it’s making it impossible for him to succeed.