The Panthers have six losses this season by six points or less, and even worse is the way this team has found many methods of losing.
Quarterback Cam Newton fumbled in the waning moments of Carolina’s Week 4 loss to Atlanta, allowing Matt Ryan and the Falcons one last shot to come from behind. The Chicago Bears used the same play over and over again in their final drive of Week 8 to come from behind to beat Carolina.
Last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers orchestrated two 80-yard drives—one in the fourth quarter to tie the game, and one in overtime to win—to topple the Panthers.
In a season where the Panthers have written the book on how to lose games late, it was refreshing to see this team hold on to a win.
The win over Philadelphia moves Carolina to 3-8 on the season, well below expectations but still with room to grow before the end.
Newton completed 18 passes for 306 yards and two touchdown passes, posting his third-highest efficiency rating (64.3 percent completion rate) and second-best yardage total of the season in the process. But he wasn’t only dangerous with his arm.
Carrying the ball 14 times—a season high and tying a career mark—Newton gained 52 yards and scored twice. Better than the yardage he churned and the four times he produced touchdowns, Newton limited his mistakes.
For just the ninth time in his 27-game career, Newton didn’t turn the ball over. When he is responsible for zero interceptions and zero fumbles, the Panthers are 8-1. Their only loss when Newton stayed clean was this year in Week 11 against the Buccaneers.
Newton’s done an admirable job of holding onto the football of late. With 27 interceptions and 14 fumbles (five lost) in his career, the second-year passer averages a little more than 1.5 miscues per game. However, over his last four games, Newton hasn’t turned the ball over once, and only has one fumble—a Week 10 drop in Denver.
It’s no surprise that with Newton holding onto the football successfully, the Panthers have won twice over those four games.
It certainly helps, as the nation saw on Monday Night Football, Newton doesn’t have to go bonkers with offensive output for the Panthers to win. The team does just fine when he plays mistake-free football.
For proof, compare Carolina’s 8-1 record when Newton plays mistake-free to its 3-9 record when he throws for 300 yards or is responsible for three or more touchdowns.