Carolina Panthers Week 2 Awards: MVP, LVP and Top Rookie
The win marked the first time that Cam Newton beat the New Orleans Saints, and the victory sent the Panthers' bitter rival into the cellar of the NFC South.
Last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina's offensive line was dominated by the front seven of the Bucs. Tampa Bay held the Panthers' talented rushing combination to just 10 yards on the ground.
Even without the presence of Jonathan Stewart, gaining only 10 yards on the ground is inexcusable.
Clearly, Ron Rivera thought the same thing and made it a point to run the ball against New Orleans.
When it was all said and done, the Panthers ran the ball 41 times for 219 yards and three touchdowns. On average, Carolina gained five yards per rush and the Saints had few answers for the run game until midway through the fourth quarter.
The Panthers must now get ready to play the New York Giants on a short week, as the two teams will face off at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday.
While many of the things that the Panthers did in Week 2 were great, there are still aspects of the team that could be tinkered with in order to remain competitive in the tough NFC South.
MVP: Cam Newton
Cam Newton paced the Carolina Panthers' offensive attack and had very few mental lapses against the New Orleans Saints in Week 2.
Newton went 14-for-20 for 253 yards and a touchdown. His performance was made even more impressive because he took care of the ball and didn't turn it over like he did against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1.
Another thing that Newton improved upon over Week 1 was his contribution to the run game. The Bucs held Newton to just four rushing yards and took the versatility out of the Panthers' attack.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera must have realized that his team needs to be able to run the ball efficiently in order to win.
While Newton is growing as a passer—and that was evident today when he went through multiple reads prior to scrambling—he isn't ready to rely solely on his arm to do the requisite damage.
Newton is a one-of-a-kind athlete and is at his best when he is in the open field. Just ask the New Orleans Saints.
In leading the Panthers to their first win of the season, Newton ran the ball 13 times for 71 yards and a touchdown.
However, those numbers don't tell the whole story. Newton's ability to run the ball kept the defense honest, thus opening up holes for his running backs and opportunities in coverage for his receivers.
Newton's play also proved that he is one of the most dangerous red zone players in the entire NFL. While the Saints were able to stop Newton on a fourth-and-short in the first half, the Panthers scored touchdowns in each of their other four red zone attempts.
The success of Newton and the Panthers will directly relate to the team's record as the season moves forward. When Carolina takes care of the ball, they will be one of the league's toughest teams to beat.
Honorable Mentions: Brandon LaFell and Charles Godfrey
LVP: Ron Edwards
This was a tough one, because the Panthers didn't really have a least valuable player in Week 2.
After I concluded that the run defense was probably the Panthers' weakest point against the Saints, I had no choice but to throw Ron Edwards under the bus.
While the run defense wasn't a disaster, surrendering an average of six yards per rush isn't going to get it done on a weekly basis.
It is tough to blame Edwards for the entire problem, but his primary job is to clog the middle. If he does that well, his talented linebackers will be free to shoot in and out of gaps without much interference from opposing offensive lineman.
The Panthers did struggle finishing tackles—another thing that can't be blamed on Edwards—but Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram were able to do considerable damage up the middle.
When teams prepare for the Saints, they are forced to focus primarily on slowing down Brees and his array of explosive options. This creates holes for the New Orleans' backs in the run game, and puts more pressure on Edwards and the rest of the defensive line to play more stoutly against the run.
Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, the choice for the LVP was obviously the offensive line, but there is no easy selection after the big win over the Saints in Week 2.
Top Rookie: Luke Kuechly
In Week 2 against the Saints, he was a part of five tackles including one solo takedown. There were a couple occasions in which Kuechly was unable to bring down opposing ball carriers, but that can be attributed to his transition to becoming familiar with the speed of the NFL game.
Becoming familiar with the speed of the pro game, along with dealing with the best offensive lineman in the world on a weekly basis, is something that Kuechly will have to learn to deal with.
Even though the NFC South isn't know as a running division, even the most pass-happy teams will have to mix in a few handoffs in order to remain slightly unpredictable.
Kuechly wasn't caught out of position often in Week 2, and was certainly more of an asset than a liability.
I could have gone with Brad Nortman or Amini Silatolu in this spot as well, but opted to go with Kuechly who played his heart out all afternoon.