CHARLOTTE — Panthers quarterback Cam Newton may have had shoulder issues in the past, but Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said Monday that had nothing to do with their play-calling, and that he doesn't see a problem with Newton's arm.
Playing his first full game, Newton completed 21-of-27 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. It was an efficient game (120.5 passer rating), and the 7.0 yards per pass attempt wasn't necessarily anemic.
In fact, it was the fifth-highest yards per attempt for the Panthers in a game this season, trailing the first four games of the year, when Sam Darnold accounted for 7.97, 8.03, 8.94, and 7.72 yards per.
They're averaging 6.3 yards per pass attempt on the year, which ranks 30th in the league, and they have just two pass plays of 25 yards or longer in the last five games (not counting a 10-yard pass to DJ Moore Sunday which was followed by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty).
Offensive coordinator Joe Brady comes from a West Coast Offense background from his days with New Orleans, so horizontal passing (as opposed to deep vertical) is baked into the product to a certain degree. But Newton threw a few shots downfield, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey, which Rhule described as "elite."
"The deeper thing is more on Joe and me," Rhule said Monday. "There's no issue with Cam's arm. We threw four verticals on second and 20, hit the seam route to Tommy ( Tommy Tremble, for 19 yards), threw the ball to Christian, . . .
"Typically since we've been here, Joe's been more of an underneath passing game guy. We have to continue to push the deep passing game. I know that's a narrative right now (about Newton's arm strength); that's on us to push that aside."
— For the second week in a row, rookie offensive lineman Brady Christensen had to fill in at left tackle.
Dennis Daley left during the second possession with a glute injury, and Christensen played the rest of the game.
"He played well in the game," Rhule said. "Dennis went down for the second week in a row. Brady had to step up, and he played well. I was proud of him, and we'll see what this week brings."
The Panthers have used eight different combinations of starting linemen in 11 games.
Christensen has started a pair of games, one each at right tackle (Philadelphia in Week 5) and left tackle (New York Giants in Week 7).
— With all the talk Monday about consistency and execution, the topic of leading the league in penalties was inevitable.
The Panthers were flagged seven times for 65 yards Sunday. Of that group, Rhule took exception with a pair of them, saying there was no evidence of Michael Jordan moving before he was called for a false start, and that the Washington guard "flinched his hand" before defensive tackle Derrick Brown was called for offsides.
The more bothersome ones were the holding calls on Jordan and right tackle Taylor Moton, along with the two unnecessary roughness calls on Juston Burris and Donte Jackson's neutral zone infraction on a field goal. Along with the run defense issues, Rhule described it as "just really undisciplined football."
"I think once you get the reputation, it's kind of on you," Rhule said of the penalty problems. "Some things, tough calls went against us, but the officiating's the officiating, we're not going to complain about it, play through it. What's really bothering me is the holds on offense. . . .
"Our level of focus has to be significantly higher, especially at home. Our level of focus as a team, at home, is not anywhere near where it has to be. I feel like I have to do a better job as a head coach of getting us locked in at home games. We're about everything else other than just playing the football and the play right in front of us. It's time for us to make that step."
View all of the best photos from pre-game, in-game and post-game from Carolina's game against Washington.