Cam Newton stole many Week 1 headlines as his 422 passing yards broke an NFL rookie record. The Carolina Panthers face a much tougher task in Week 2 with the Green Bay Packers coming to town. The experienced defense will look to confuse the quarterback on their quest to shut him down.
Against the Arizona Cardinals, Newton was extremely successful through the air and made some plays on the ground, but failed to seal the deal as the Cardinals tacked on 14 fourth-quarter points to take a win the season opener.
Newton completed 24 of his 37 passes for the remarkable 422 yards and added two touchdowns through the air and one on the ground. The Cardinals are known to have a very questionable secondary, but Newton made some spectacular throws throughout the game.
The Green Bay Packers will accept the challenge of making sure Newton comes nowhere close to replicating his success in Week 2. A much more complex and potentially-confusing defense will provide the rookie with quite a more difficult test.
"Well, I think that's ultimately our goal," Matthews responded when reporters asked him about confusing and getting pressure on Newton.
"As far as the defense, [the goal] is really number one stop the run, which we need to improve upon, but also getting the quarterback off the spot... Hopefully we can get to him a few of times and get him off the spot because as you can see from last week, when he's comfortable he has the arm power and accuracy to throw for 400-plus."
Newton showed great poise in the pocket against the Cardinals, while beating the blitz on multiple occasions. The Packers will need to get pressure and force the rookie into making throws either on the run or before he can set himself in the pocket.
The differences between the Cardinals secondary and the Packers are night and day as Newton will experience on Sunday. A successful outing against the reigning Super Bowl champs would be a huge step in the quick development of Newton's career.
Look for Packers' defensive coordinator Dom Capers to dial up blitzes from all angles and throw packages at Newton that he has never seen before. Capers is one of the most creative coaches on the defensive side of the play and should have plenty prepared from the newcomer.
Even with the success of Newton in his debut, the Packers maintain, just as Matthews said, that their top priority is to contain the Panthers rushing attack.
"We want to make sure we stop the run, make them one-dimensional and get them in third-and-long," Erik Walden explained to reporters. "That's when we can tee-off and do what we do."
The Cardinals attempted to stop the run and did a successful job shutting down the DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart duo in the backfield. If not for this, the Panthers would have celebrated a win in their season opener.
With a huge better secondary than the Cardinals, the Packers should have more success against Newton, even if he has time to sit back and throw the ball. If the Packers can get pressure on Newton, they will be able to force him into making rookie mistakes.
If the Packers are able to shut down the Panthers backfield, it is unlikely that Newton will able to improve on his impressive Week 1 performance enough to get the Panthers a victory. Newton played at an extremely high level, but he still lost in Week 1.