It’s almost like he never left.
Cam Newton was back at quarterback and the Carolina Panthers continued their dominance over the Arizona Cardinals with a 34-10 victory Sunday, November 14, at State Farm Stadium.
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It was easily the worst performance of the season for the Cardinals (8-2), who played without QB Kyler Murray for the second consecutive game and were held to a season-low 169 yards by the Panthers (5-5). Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey nearly matched that offensive output himself with 161 total yards (95 rushing and 66 receiving).
“I thought (Carolina) coached and played with a real sense of urgency that we didn’t have,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury told sideline reporter Paul Calvisi after the game. “We’re a team that feeds off emotion and have a great group of leaders. For whatever reason, we got outcoached and outplayed today.”
Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP with the Panthers who re-signed with the team just three days earlier, didn’t start and played sparingly against the Cardinals but appeared to provide an emotional lift for Carolina.
Newton scored the first two times he touched the ball — first on a 2-yard run and later with a 2-yard pass to Robby Anderson — to give the Panthers an early 14-0 lead.
After the first scoring play, Newton celebrated the TD by taking off his helmet and yelling to the crowd and TV cameras, “I’m back!” He was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for removing his helmet while still on the field.
“I’m just happy to be back,” Newton told Fox Sports sideline reporter Sara Walsh after the game. “I’m just happy to be a contributor to a team that’s already good. We’re just trying to get over the hump.”
Kingsbury said the Cardinals were prepared to face Newton, particularly in red-zone situations.
“I thought it was impressive by their coaching staff to be able to incorporate him and him be that effective,” Kingsbury said.
Newton, 32, who returned to the Panthers after one season with the New England Patriots, was 3-of-4 passing for just 8 yards and carried three times for 14 yards. But the boost he provided on the sideline was evident from the start.
“That kind of brought some more juice to them,” Cardinals safety Budda Baker said of Newton’s return. “They just executed better than we did.”
Panthers Extend Winning Streak Over Cardinals
Beating the Cardinals is nothing new for Newton and the Panthers. Arizona has lost its last six meetings with Carolina, including four with Newton at QB.
And while there was no Superman celebration from Newton, Carolina continues to be Arizona’s Kryptonite.
The Cardinals haven’t beaten the Panthers since the 2010 season, and all six losses have been by at least 10 points. Two of those Carolina wins came in the postseason: a 27-16 Panthers victory in the Wild Card round following the 2014 season and 49-15 a year later in the NFC Championship game.
Coincidentally, Newton made his return to the Panthers in the same stadium where he made his NFL debut November 1, 2009. The then-rookie threw for 422 yards in a 28-21 loss to the Cardinals. Arizona also won the 2013 meeting between the teams, 22-6.
Since then, it’s been all Panthers.
Newton Shines Brightest in Battle of Backup QBs
Newton had the best day of any QB on the field at State Farm Stadium. And it didn’t take much.
Colt McCoy struggled in his second start in place of Murray, who continues to recover from an ankle injury. A week after leading Arizona to a 31-17 road victory over the San Francisco 49ers, McCoy was 11-of-20 passing for 107 yards and an interception. He also lost a fumble on the third play of the game, setting up the Panthers with good field position (Arizona’s 15-yard line) for their first possession.
Four plays later, Newton entered the game for the first time on second-and-goal from the 2-yard line and capitalized on the turnover with a TD run.
The Panthers again got a short field for their second possession of the game after the Cardinals failed to convert a fourth-and-1 from their own 42-yard line. McCoy tried to pick up the yard on a QB sneak but was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
The Cardinals’ next possession ended with a McCoy interception. Third-string QB Chris Streveler took over in the third quarter after McCoy left the game with a pectoral injury.
P.J. Walker started in place of injured QB Sam Darnold and took the majority of the snaps for Carolina, completing 22 of 29 passes for 167 yards. He also was picked off by Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson in the second quarter.