Carolina Panthers head into their “bye” week after their best offensive performance this season.
On primetime television Carolina Panthers whopped Miami Dolphins 45-21 with an offensive dominant performance on Monday Night Football. One where they rushed for a franchise second most rushing yards in a single game with 294 yards. Cam Newton also threw four touchdowns accumulating a quarterback rating of 120.4 by completing 21 of 35 passes for 254 yards while running for 95 yards on five carries, including a 69-yard break away.
With the win Newton holds a 5-1 career record on Monday Night Football and has thrown multiple touchdowns in each start.
“There’s something about him when the lights turn on,” head coach Ron Rivera said of Newton during the postgame press conference. “It’s just who he is…he had a good feel for this game…he played a tremendous game.”
With the offense in sync coming off their first back-to-back 200 plus rushing yard performance in team history, does Newton wish Panthers were playing next week to stay in rhythm?
“Absolutely not,” Newton said during the post game press conference.
For the quarterback who expressed this offense is shooting to be the best in the league to catch up with the defense’s top rank, he believes this offense can be better than they showed Monday.
“We just gotta keep it going. There’s nothing saying we reached our pinnacle,” Newton said. “It was extremely well for us to put up that type of points…[but] we’re still scratching the surface with what we can do as a whole with this offense.”
One of the players that stepped up in his new role as starting wide receiver was Devin Funchess. After the Kelvin Benjamin trade he was forced to lead the receiving core and his performance Monday night proves he can be an effective NFL starting receiver. He hauled in five catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns. A performance Funchess credits his quarterback for inspiring his teammates when he was in rhythm.
“We feed off that juice that he has,” Funchess told NFL network’s Alex Flanagan after the game.
When the two connected for a 32-yard touchdown along the sideline late in the fourth quarter it was a result of their chemistry, Newton said.
When the offense is rolling on all cylinders its fun for Panthers defense to watch from the sidelines, Luke Kuechly said after the game.
“It makes our job easy,” Kuechly said. “That’s the fun part when those guys are clicking like that.”
With Panthers all-time rusher Jonathan Stewart leading the team in rushing this game it was a confidence booster coming off a game where he fumbled twice. Being at the bottom of the NFL along with teammate Christian McCaffrey in yards per carry his teammates were noticing he was getting down about his performance this season, Newton said. A break out game was just what he needed.
Stewart finished with 110 rushing yards on 17 carries.
With the running game back Panthers have found a formula to maintain this success. Taking shots deep down the field, running the play action and the threat of Newton running opens things up for the running backs, Rivera said. Getting Stewart going will be key to this team’s success this season, Rivera expressed.
“Jonathan just wanted to make sure everybody understood he ain’t done. He’s a big part of what we do, he’s going to continue to work hard and he’ll be productive for us,” Rivera said.
Heading into their “bye” week the focus will be on improving as they are chasing New Orleans (7-2) who currently lead the NFC South. Even with a dominant performance there’s still things they could have perfected which the team will address, Rivera said.
Panthers are 7-3 with the fifth best record in NFC. After their “bye” week they will face New York Jets (4-6).
By Gino Terrell