But there’s a lot more to talk about.
For the second time this season, the Panthers failed to reach double digits in scoring. In Week 1, Carolina lost 12-7 to the Seattle Seahawks, and then Sunday in Arizona the Panthers never crossed the goal line.
The Panthers are averaging 18.5 points per game, but that figure is padded drastically by a 38-0 beatdown Carolina put on a terrible New York Giants team in Week 3.
After the debacle in the desert, it looks as if this Carolina offense is in serious trouble, and the guy under center is going to be in the crosshairs of some very serious questions this week as the media takes aim at Newton.
Yes, Newton accumulated 308 yards through the air Sunday. But that typical standard of a good passing day for a quarterback is misleading.
Newton threw three interceptions, fumbled the football once, was terribly erratic with his passes (especially in the second half) and took too long to make decisions in the pocket, once leading to a safety.
Newton’s 47.8 quarterback rating was the third worst of his career and only four other times had he thrown three or more interceptions in a game. The Panthers are 0-8 when Newton throws multiple interceptions in a game.
This comes on the back of a trip to Arizona when the Panthers needed Newton to step up. The Cardinals entered Sunday’s game ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed to opponents. It was likely the running game was going to suffer and Newton would have to put this team on his shoulders and lead it to victory with his arm.
The Panthers managed 95 yards on the ground but Newton couldn’t make anything happen in the passing game. And that’s after the Panthers carried the momentum from a 38-0 win into the bye week and had loads of extra time to prepare to face Arizona.
Newton’s teammates didn’t help.
Wide receiver Steve Smith dropped two passes, one in the end zone. Two other receivers dropped passes to hurt Newton. Speaking of hurting Newton, the offensive line allowed seven sacks Sunday. Some of those, as mentioned earlier, were Newton’s waiting too long in the pocket. But there’s no way any quarterback should have to endure a seven-sack day.
The Panthers were also penalized nine times for 79 yards.
Put the dropped passes, the penalties and porous offensive line aside and there’s still plenty of blame to go around for Newton.
Newton grossly underthrew Smith as he was running down the sideline toward the end zone in the second quarter. The pass was easily picked off by Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson.
In the fourth quarter, Newton had a pass tipped behind the line of scrimmage when too much pressure got into the pocket and Newton didn’t make the necessary adjustments to get the throw off. Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby picked off the batted football.
The criticisms of Newton are going to grow louder this week, and they're deserved. The easy target is his record, 13-20, as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
But also look at his completion percentage that keeps dropping from year to year, and a growing interception rate (he’s on pace to throw a career-worst 20 in 2013) and it seems like Newton isn’t turning into the franchise quarterback the Panthers thought they were drafting.
Newton is in the third season of a four-year contract with the Panthers. His tenure might not be as stable as you’d think.
Last season, general manager Marty Hurney was fired and replaced by Dave Gettleman. Head coach Ron Rivera was on the hot seat but survived because of a 5-1 record over the final six games of the 2012 season. At 1-3 this season, Rivera is right back on the hot seat.
If Rivera can’t save his job and Newton can’t improve over the next 12 games, will Gettleman work really hard to negotiate an extension with Newton before his 2014 contract season?
It might not be in the team’s best interest to continue to pay Newton first-round money.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.