Norv Turner is with his eighth team as an offensive coordinator and when he assumed the responsibilities for the Carolina Panthers, among his priorities was getting Cam Newton to evolve by becoming more consistent.
Three games in, Newton is doing what Turner hoped for, giving the Panthers something to be extremely pleased with heading into their bye week.
After throwing for a pair of touchdowns and running for two more in Sunday’s 31-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, Newton’s completion percentage is 67.4, significantly higher than his career best of 61.7 percent in 2013. He also has a quarterback rating of 99.7, a tick above the 99.4 he posted while winning the MVP in 2015.
“Very consistent is a good word for it,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Monday. “His play has truly matured, and by that, I mean he’s learning to take what’s being given.
“In the past he may have tried to force some things downfield. He was a little high early in the game (yesterday), and once he kind of got the ball down and went through his reads quickly he was getting the ball where it needed to be. He was very efficient that way.”
Newton completed 15 of 24 passes for 150 yards and contributed to Carolina’s potent ground game by running for 36 yards.
While Rivera was happy with Newton’s play, the Panthers also enjoyed a terrific showing from second-year running back Christian McCaffrey.
McCaffrey rushed for 184 yards and when told of his total, Newton smiled and kiddingly said: “That’s it?”
Various critics and observers believed his 5-foot-11 size could prevent McCaffrey from running effectively. Instead he posted the fourth-highest rushing total in team history and significantly surpassed his previous career best of 66 yards set last season against Atlanta.
McCaffrey also recorded the first 180-yard rushing game since DeAngelo Williams compiled 210 on Dec. 30, 2012.
McCaffrey’s huge day was highlighted by a 45-yard gain off left tackle that set up Carolina’s first TD a few plays later.
“To play like today, he’s obviously not just a receiving back. He’s a total package running back,” Newton said. “This is not a fluke. He’s been doing it his whole career, collegiately as well as professionally.
“The fact that we have a special talent, you can’t really gear in by using packages for him. He’s in there every single down and the more comfortable he gets not only in passing routes, but in blocking protections, as well, that presents a big thing for our offense.”
–DE Efe Obada enjoyed a memorable NFL debut Sunday. He had an interception that led to Carolina’s final TD and also recorded a sack of QB Andy Dalton. The Nigerian native was inactive for the first two games but likely earned a spot in the defensive line rotation with an impressive debut.
–CB Donte Jackson is off to a strong start three games into his career. The second-round pick from LSU had two interceptions of QB Andy Dalton Sunday and is the eighth player in NFL history to get three interceptions in his first three games. Jackson was listed as questionable due to a groin injury but also added seven solo tackles.
–RG Trai Turner missed his second straight while remaining in the concussion protocol. Turner was concussed during the Week 1 win over Dallas. Last season, Turner missed the final three games of the regular season with a concussion
–MLB Luke Kuechly missed a series in the second half after cramping up due to the humidity. He took fluids through an IV before returning and getting an interception on the final play.
–WR Devin Funchess was Carolina’s leading receiver Sunday with 67 yards on four catches. He also recorded his first TD by getting a 4-yard score.