Newton leads Panthers to impressive 5-2 start

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) with fans after the game at Bank of America Stadium.Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Rivera: "I think we’re playing well as a team right now."

The Carolina Panthers improved to 5-2 on Sunday behind the play of quarterback Cam Newton, who was effective against a Baltimore Ravens defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed and No. 2 against the pass.

Newton completed 21 of 29 for 219 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 52 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.

In the past five quarters, going back to Carolina’s win over Philadelphia in Week 7, Newton has completed 37 of 51 passes (72.5 percent) for 420 yards and four touchdowns. He also has a rushing touchdown.

Newton is also excelling despite a sore shoulder that limited him in practice last week. Carolina coach Ron Rivera said that Newton opted out of a Hail Mary throw at the end of the second quarter on Sunday because he didn’t want to risk anything.

“It’s interesting because the past week, we had to work with him (differently) because he was working through the shoulder,” Rivera said during his Monday press conference. “And you can tell that his whole mental approach has been different.

“He had a great week of studying, preparing. Took the reps that we had scheduled for him. But he made the most of them, made great decisions with them. And you see that carrying over to the game.”

Newton has more touchdowns (13), fewer interceptions (four) and a higher completion percentage (66.4) through seven games than he did in his MVP season in 2015.

“A lot has to do with the people around him,” Rivera said. “I think right now, we’re protecting him as well as we’ve ever protected him. He’s making just as good decisions as he did in 2015, but just in a different way.

“And he’s got a great set of weapons around him. I think we’re playing well as a team right now in all three phases, and I think that helps.”

Rivera raved about how Newton threw to tight end Greg Olsen although Olsen was a third read on a pass with other receivers running deeper downfield on longer-developing routes.

“Those are the types of things I’m talking about,” Rivera said. “In the past, he might have held onto the ball while waiting for the deeper route to come open.

“Here, he sees it, sees where the safety is and makes his decisions even quicker. That’s one of the more beneficial things that has happened.”

–LB Shaq Thompson had a career-high 13 tackles in the win over Baltimore last Sunday.

–RB Christian McCaffrey, who took one snap off for the first time in three games, has now been in for 439 of a possible 456 offensive plays this season.

–WR DJ Moore played a career-high 46 snaps, tallying a career-best 90 receiving yards to go with 39 yards on the ground.

–CB Captain Munnerlyn had his first interception since 2015 and now has 12 in his 10-year career.

–S Eric Reid played in all but four snaps, his most since being signed by the Panthers in Week 4. Reid recorded seven tackles and his first sack of the season.

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