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Newton's reaction to fumble made sense


How does Cam Newton get away with being such a "me"? Louis Murphy bails him out on the fumble, and Cam sulks away to the bench instead of running to embrace Murphy. – James in Wilmington, N.C.

The FOX Network crew had a field day with this one.

"I don't get it," color commentator Daryl Johnston said after the play.

I don't get it either, and by "it," I mean the negative reaction to Newton's reaction.

In case you missed it, Newton lost a fumble at the goal line in the second quarter of Sunday's game at the Chicago Bears. Murphy recovered the ball in the back of the end zone for a touchdown that gave Carolina a 10-7 lead.

Newton reacted by giving a fist pump (not exactly a sign of sulking), then he jogged off the field. No doubt Newton was happy that the Panthers scored a touchdown, but he had to be seething over the fumble. To me, his reaction fit with those conflicting emotions.

Here's the thing when it comes to Newton these days. If he goes crazy over the touchdown and breaks into his Superman celebration, he gets criticized for being too happy after a fumble. If he does what the announcers are calling for and mobs Murphy, most of the chatter probably is centered on criticizing Newton for fumbling.

Newton can't win these days…unless he wins. And maybe not even then. If the Panthers win this Sunday, will Newton be praised for the moment at hand or will he be criticized for not winning earlier and more often?

Why didn't the runback by the Panthers on the Bears' two-point conversion attempt count as a touchdown? – Joe in Knightdale, N.C.

Great to get a question from my hometown! And no, my dad isn't named Joe.

Midway through the fourth quarter on a two-point conversion attempt after the Bears had taken a 20-19 lead, Panthers rookie cornerback Josh Norman stepped in the path of a Jay Cutler pass and returned it 103 yards. That's not a touchdown on any level of football, but it is worth two points in college.

Norman obviously isn't far removed from college, and if there's any doubt, there's no reason to take a chance. That's certainly the way those throwing blocks for Norman and the Bears chasing him looked at it.

There are other significant rules differences between college and the NFL, notable among them that a knee down means the runner is down in college; one foot inbounds on a catch is enough in college; and pass interference penalties more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage are accessed only 15 yards in college.

How come when our defense has a great game our offense doesn't, and vice-versa? – Avery in Bowie, Md.

Avery, you have stumbled upon one of the great mysteries of the football universe. The Panthers coaching staff would pay a pretty penny for the answer.

It's one of the more frustrating things about a frustrating season to date. The stat that most simply (and sadistically) summarizes it: Carolina is 0-4 when opposing offenses score fewer than 20 points. Last year, the Panthers were 5-0 when that happened.

Sunday against Chicago, both sides of the ball played well, but the offense's inability to turn long drives into touchdowns rather than field goals and a fluky interception that the Bears returned for a touchdown kept Carolina out of the win column.

Last season, several outstanding performances by the offense went unrewarded when the defense struggled. This season, it's been the other way around, an unlikely scenario because more often than not, strong defensive showings set up offenses for good games.

Close-to-complete games are required to win in the NFL. In this maddening season, the Panthers are just 1-2 in their best all-around efforts – a victory over New Orleans and devastating losses to Atlanta and Chicago.

The (potential) silver lining? Such things tend to even out over time.

Bryan, what do you think the Panthers should focus on in the fourth quarter to close out these games and get a win? – Chris in Killeen, Texas

It's a difficult question to answer because every close loss has been a little different.

In Week 4 at Atlanta, the defense got beat by a deep ball, perhaps contributing to the defensive mindset Sunday at Chicago that resulted in the Bears pulling out the victory with a series of short passes.

In between, the offense needed one yard to beat Seattle, and the Panthers could have used one whistle in their favor against Dallas.

As much as anything, winning close games is a mentality, and the best way to develop it is by winning close games. In three of the last four games, the Panthers have faced a late-game situation that allows for a play-not-to-lose approach to creep in. Next time, the Panthers have to play like they have nothing to lose.


What happened to Joe Adams? I know he got benched, but will he return and play? I was excited about seeing him develop in the return game. – Deon in Charlotte

Adams has been inactive since fumbling a kickoff and losing a muffed punt in a Week 3 loss to the New York Giants. The dynamic rookie out of Arkansas had some ball security concerns in the preseason as well, so the coaches have been working with Adams to improve his fundamentals.

"He's doing some good things on scout team for us, and every day he's been practicing off the Jugs machine," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "He's got to learn to be patient, make the catch and then make his move. He'll do that. He's an explosive, dynamic guy. He's a home run hitter. You want to get those kind of guys out there."

Rivera hasn't said when Adams will be active again, but he is staying ready.

"It's frustrating, but I can only control what I can control," Adams said. "My confidence is still high. I can't let anything take that away from me."

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