What is your opinion on our defensive end depth after our starters? – Jason via Twitter
Head coach Ron Rivera was asked after the 49ers game his impressions to date of the pass rush - subs and starters included. Just one sack has come from a defensive end so far, but Rivera is pleased with the production given other factors.
"In the last two football games, getting pressure against Denver was tough because they were going with three- and five-step (drops) and getting the ball out very quickly, but we affected two balls that got intercepted. That's huge. That's part of productivity," Rivera said. "Against the 49ers, it was a mobile quarterback that we got out of the pocket several times. We only sacked him twice, but they came at opportune moments.
"I like where were are. We can become better. We're going to become better. I'm confident in those guys."
The individual players at defensive end aren't off to what would be considered hot starts. Starters Charles Johnson and Kony Ealy are still seeking their first sack, as are reserves Ryan Delaire and Lavar Edwards, who played some at defensive tackle in his Carolina debut. Still, the pass rush that they're associated with is getting the job done in a variety of ways.
The Panthers' four sacks aren't an overwhelming number but still rank 15th in the league so far, and pressure has helped Carolina tied for the league lead with four interceptions. The pressure has come from all over the place, with defensive end Mario Addison and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei both having a sack and a pressure that helped create an interception. Safety Kurt Coleman helped force an interception, and fellow safety Tre Boston has a sack.
"The ball is coming out fast," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "Having said that, we want more (pressure). It's a quarterback-driven league, so you can never have enough."
I know Cam Newton recently broke Steve Young's record for rushing touchdowns. Cam certainly has the most rushing TDs against NFC South teams. How many teams are left before Cam can say that he's had a rushing touchdown against every team in the NFL? – Gene in Southwick, Mass.
With a rushing touchdown in Week 1, Newton broke Young's NFL record for career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with the 44th of his career. Newton didn't find the end zone with his legs Sunday against the 49ers, who still stand beside the Rams as the lone NFC teams to not be victimized by a Newton touchdown run. Alas, he had to settle for four touchdown passes.
All told, Newton has rushing touchdowns against 21 of the other 31 teams and will have chances to reduce that number later in the season against the Rams, Chiefs and Chargers. Only two teams remain that have faced Newton more than once without yielding him a rushing touchdown – the 49ers and the Jaguars.
Of the 21 teams Newton has reached the end zone against, he's done so in the first meeting with 15 of them. The majority of the six exceptions are notable ones: the Texans last year on his highlight-reel flip for six; the Titans last year in the debut of the "Dab"; the Seahawks last year in the breakthrough victory at Seattle; and the record setter this year at the Broncos.
Newton has recorded 19 of his 44 rushing touchdowns against NFC South foes, with Tampa Bay easily his favorite target considering the number of games played. The only two games Newton has missed in his career were against the Buccaneers, meaning his eight rushing scores have come over the course of eight meetings. In 10 meetings against the Falcons and Saints, Newton has six and five rushing touchdowns.
As a rookie, when Newton broke the single-season record with 14 rushing touchdowns, he lost each of his first five games with a rushing touchdown. Since, he's a sparkling 26-6-1 when finding the end zone.
The Panthers are 26-11-1 when Newton runs for a touchdown, versus 20-22 when he doesn't.
It's obvious that with Stewart banged up, Cameron Artis-Payne will finally be activated. Who gets the start? - Melvin in Charlotte
Rivera hasn't said who will start if Stewart's hamstring injury sidelines him Sunday against the Vikings, but what the Panthers did last year when Stewart missed the final three games with a foot injury could provide a hint.
Even as a rookie still learning the ropes, Artis-Payne led the way with 152 yards on 33 carries, more yards and carries than Whittaker and Tolbert had combined. Artis-Payne's skills set more resembles Stewart, which explains why Whittaker would have been active over Artis-Payne as a change-of-pace back the first two games and why Artis-Payne could potentially start over Whittaker in Week 3.
View the top photos from Carolina's win at home by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.