Cam Newton’s Shoulder Derails Postseason Hopes for Carolina Panthers on Monday Night

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CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 17: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers throws a pass against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 17, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Despite the five-game skid, the rumors surrounding the coaching staff and the injuries they’ve suffered, the Carolina Panthers went into to Monday night’s game with the ever so slightest of chances to make the playoffs. It was going to be a tough journey, but with a home primetime game against their division rival, it seemed like a good place to turn it around. The New Orleans Saints have not looked like the juggernaut they once were in the middle of the season and played like it on Monday night. Drew Brees and the offense managed only one touchdown in the 12-9 victory but it was enough to cut the Panthers season short.

The biggest news from the Carolina side of things has to be the health of their quarterback Cam Newton. The former MVP struggled to throw the ball beyond 10 yards on numerous occasions and was wildly inaccurate. It is time for the organization to think long-term and what’s best for their franchise player.

Health of Cam Newton’s Shoulder Questioned in 12-9 Loss to New Orleans Saints

Throw in the Towel

In the words of Tony “Duke” Evers in Rocky IV, “Throw the damn towel.” While the Panthers may not be facing the next great Russian boxer, they are facing an unbeatable opponent of their own: the injury bug.

Newton’s shoulder strength has been questioned plenty this season especially during the five-game losing streak. The Panthers quarterback continued to show signs that he was not fully healthy on Monday night. Newton finished the game with 131 passing yards and an average of just 4.5 yards per completion, both season lows. The longest throw of the night was to Curtis Samuel that traveled a little over 15 yards. The rest of the night he was stuck checking down the ball to running back Christian McCaffrey or receiver Jarius Wright.

The Panthers longest play from scrimmage, and their only touchdown, came on a trick play when McCaffrey connected with Chris Manhertz on a 50-yard touchdown.

Ron Rivera said in the postgame conference that there is no plan to sit Newton the remainder of the season and that they will continue as they have been in previous weeks. It may be time for general manager Marty Hurney or owner David Tepper to come in overrule Rivera’s decision after watching Newton throw like this all night.

The Hero We Didn’t Know We Deserved

In the midst of all the ugliness the Panthers offense displayed, the defense absolutely balled out. They held the league’s second-highest scoring team to 12 points and did so with great play by their front seven. Julius Peppers, Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson and Vernon Butler all were living in the backfield. But no one on that side of the ball had a better game than their captain, Luke Kuechly.

Kuechly was truly marvelous in Monday night’s loss to the Saints. The four-time All-Pro had 13 tackles, two tackles for loss and one pass deflection. His two tackles for a loss put him at 19 for the season which ties the franchise record (Charles Johnson) for most in a single season. With two games remaining, it is very likely he will set the new record.

As someone who played linebacker, watching Kuechly play is extremely fun. The middle linebacker is so prepared for every and any play that could be run out of a formation. Not only that, Kuechly has the speed and instinct to cover sideline to sideline which is truly remarkable. Along with speed, he has great strength, as he knocked over his own defensive tackle to make a stop on a toss play Monday night.

Let’s Get Weird

Things got fairly wacky on Monday night as it seemed like neither team wanted to take control of the game. After it was 7-6 for much of the second half, the Saints scored a touchdown on a 16-yard run by Alvin Kamara to give them a 12-6 lead. Sean Payton decided to go for the two-point conversion but Brees was unable to find an open target. It was well covered by the Panthers secondary and Brees tried to squeeze the ball in a tight hole, leading to a Donte Jackson interception. Jackson used his speed and vision to run it back 100 yards for the rare pick-two.

That play narrowed the deficit to 12-9 and the Panthers had to like their chances. But after punting the ball away, the Saints looked like they were in control as they drove all the way down to the Carolina five-yard line. However, on an end around to Tommylee Lewis, the Saints coughed up the ball and it sailed through the back of the end zone resulting in a touchback.

The Panthers had one final chance to tie things up or take the lead, but like they have been most of losing streak, they failed to capitalize on the opportunity.

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