CHARLOTTE – Panthers quarterback
Newton is missing opportunities to move the chains, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Monday.
A year ago, big plays seemed to come easy for Newton, when the rookie caught defenses off-guard and directed the offense to an NFL-best 90 plays covering 20 or more yards. But now that defenses have had time to adjust, Newton is the one trying to adjust, struggling at times to take the easy play over the potential big play.
"I think he's pressing," Rivera said Monday, one day after Newton completed just 12-of-29 passes for 141 yards in a 16-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. "He wants to make things happen so much and is trying very hard to do those things and do the right things. It's all a part of him developing as a football player."
Rivera said that while the offense needs to keep its aggressive attitude, there are times when the home-run ball simply isn't there, and Newton needs to settle for a single rather than risk striking out.
"There are some things that people are doing to take away certain things that we do with our passing game. We've got to be able to go from what we're seeing and react to that and then make plays accordingly," Rivera said. "We have that ability with the different routes we run and the combinations that are out there, that when they take certain things away, we've got to go somewhere else and use those options. We haven't been as successful doing that, but we can be because it's there. It's within what we do."
Back-to-back plays on the Panthers' first scoring drive, a march that ended with a field goal just before halftime, typified Rivera's point. On one play, Newton went underneath to wide receiver
"I think Cam was trying to get the ball downfield too far," Rivera said. "There was a play in particular where he hit Brandon LaFell underneath on a short cross. When you see those opportunities, those you have to take."
Whatever decision Newton made Sunday, it was a contested one, as Seattle's second-ranked defense clamped down.
"Give Seattle a lot of credit. They have some really good players up front, and they challenge you downfield with their secondary," Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. "You look at the week before against Atlanta, and Cam did great job in checking the ball down and in getting the ball out in time. He just has to keep work on getting better at it. "
Newton readily acknowledged the same thing after the loss, and now he'll take the opportunity during the bye week to move closer to becoming the complete quarterback the coaches believe he will become.
"That's all a part of developing and growing, of understanding the whole concept of what you're doing," Rivera said. "It's not just to advance the ball quickly, but it's to work with the different combinations and options that are there. If they take this away, come down and get this. Sometimes he holds it a little bit, waiting for a guy to clear. Sometimes it's too late.
"He's got to see it. We'll just keep coaching him up, keep talking with him and express to him the things we need him to do to be successful."