Newton was the quarterback fans have expected against the struggling Philadelphia Eagles this week, rushing for two scores and throwing for two more.
After a dominant first appearance on Monday Night Football, Newton and the Carolina Panthers will go on the road once more this week to face the Chiefs.
The Chiefs have done some good things this year, but, on a whole, the season seems lost. Here are three ways that Cam Newton can exploit weakness again this Sunday.
Regardless of wins and losses this year, as Steve Smith has gone, so too has Newton.
It is only fitting; Newton resurrected Smith from the twilight of his career last season. In 2012, however, Smith has become a crutch for Newton.
Newton threw for more than 300 yards on just two occasions before playing Philadelphia. In both of those games—one against the top-tier Chicago Bears defense—Smith had double-digit targets, accounting for at least a third of Newton’s total targets.
On Monday night, Newton spread the ball around a bit more. Smith still led the Panthers in targets, but that was matched by Brandon LaFell and challenged by Greg Olsen. The Chiefs do not have a great pass rush, just 19 sacks on the season, so Newton should have an easy time finding the open receiver.
With players like Eric Berry over the top, the Chiefs pass defense is pretty solid, while their rush defense is in the bottom third of the league.
This bodes well for the mobile Newton.
The Chiefs have not faced a scrambling quarterback yet this season. The closest they would have come was Ben Roethlisberger, but he was injured.
Newton was a bit more productive on the ground earlier in the season, but it was not until this week that he surpassed fifty yards again. He also found the endzone again, which he will likely manage in Kansas City.
He does not have to do it on his own, however.
Sunday, more than anything, is going to be about Newton making smart decisions before the snap. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams have not made a huge impact this year, but they could be significant against this defense.
Newton will just have to recognize the opportunity.
Between Derrick Johnson, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, the Chiefs’ linebackers can make it difficult for rushers to get to that second level.
Newton’s strength since college, however, has been his ability to scramble, but as a last resort. He can stay in the pocket and rely on his arm primarily.
Still, 163 of his 446 yards have gone to the right sideline. More of the same will keep Newton away from lead tackler Derrick Johnson.
Small, scrambling gains for Newton in this way will help keep drives moving. Time of possession will be key in keeping Jamaal Charles off the field against this Panther rush defense. That momentum starts and ends with Newton.