Against Bucs, Cam Newton rules the day -- again
If the Bucs ever intend to compete for the NFC South title again, they first are going to have to find a way to slow a young man who has made it known he’ll be a fixture in the division for years to come.
Carolina QB Cam Newton was amazing again on Saturday, accounting for four touchdowns – three passing, one rushing.
If you’re counting, Newton now has eight touchdowns in two games against the Bucs, after rushing for three and throwing for one in Tampa on Dec. 4. And, as he did against Tampa Bay earlier this month, Newton set another record, surpassing Peyton Manning’s rookie passing yardage mark. Newton, who now has 3,893 passing yards in 2011, set the NFL record for rushing touchdowns in his previous game against the Bucs.
“He’s a big, talented guy,” Bucs CB Ronde Barber said of the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner. “The same things he did in college, he’s doing now. We have to deal with it twice a year.”
Particularly difficult to stop is the Panthers’ package of college-style running plays that take advantage of Newton’s running ability with option and counter runs. Those plays, particularly the counter, often worked flawlessly on Saturday. The Bucs defended the option decently in the teams’ first meeting, so the Panthers skillfully adjusted.
“Our ends did a pretty good job of closing in on the option, so then they came with the counter,” DE Da’Quan Bowers said. “We reacted too slowly and it hurt us.”
Then there was the simple play on which Newton ran for a 49-yard touchdown. He faked a handoff to RB DeAngelo Williams, but opted to keep the ball. Newton then darted up the middle of the defense, where interior defensive lineman were being shoved aside, outrunning the Bucs’ secondary into the end zone.
When Newton has the ball in a situation where there are multiple threats – to run, pass or pitch – discipline is essential for the defense. The Bucs had a sore lack of it on Saturday, and numerous players ended up out of position at the wrong times.
“You have to believe that the guy next to you is going to do his job,” Barber said. “And we’re a young football team that doesn’t buy in all the time and it shows on film and it shows on the scoreboard. It’s frustrating.”
Said LB Dekoda Watson: “We can sit here and say he threw a perfect pass or this or that, but if we’re not executing, there’s no point in sitting here getting mad about it. It’s all on us.”