PHILADELPHIA – In a trio of lopsided losses earlier in the season, head coach Ron Rivera turned to backup quarterback Derek Anderson to finish out the game.
But Monday night, with the Panthers facing a 38-point deficit, Rivera stuck with starter Cam Newton until the bitter end.
Newton took advantage of the extra snaps and directed a pair of drives that ended with touchdown receptions by rookie wide receiver Fozzy Whittaker.
It was too little, too late in a 45-21 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles, but it's still early in the grand scheme of things.
"He's got to continue to work and develop, and he's got to get into a rhythm," Rivera said. "I'm looking at the long haul. If he's going to be our quarterback, he's got to work his way through these things. That's what I'm looking for.
"I thought he did a nice job. I thought he hung in there and made some plays."
Newton, of course, wishes he would have played like that from the beginning. On the Panthers' third offensive snap – the first snap after running back Ryan Kalil lost a fumble that set up an Eagles field goal – Newton was intercepted. This time, the Eagles cashed in with a touchdown for a 10-0 lead just 3:35 into the first quarter.
"We can't expect to win football games starting out like that," Newton said. "We put a lot of stress on our defense with excellent field position for them with back-to-back turnovers. I should have done a better job by checking the ball down or throwing the ball away."
The Eagles intercepted Newton twice more in the first half, including one they returned for a touchdown on their way to a 31-7 halftime lead. Newton hadn't thrown three picks since a loss at Arizona in Week 5 of the 2013 season. In his 20 regular season games since, Newton had thrown two interceptions just twice.
"I pride myself on protecting the football, but that's just not happening right now," Newton said. "I have to protect the football better. I can't put the ball up for grabs. I have to understand the difference between giving our guys an opportunity and risking the football.
"And in the pocket, I've got to be better."
The pocket wasn't as comfortable a place as the Panthers would have hoped. Newton was sacked nine times, the most in a game since the Atlanta Falcons recorded nine in the first game in Panthers history in 1995.
"They were getting a great push in the interior, but it was nothing we shouldn't be able to handle," Newton said. "I've got to get the ball out to relieve any type of stress on the offensive line. It comes down to execution."
While Newton fell on the sword for his offense, one of his teammates respectfully disagreed.
"Sacks and turnovers – that's a reflection on the entire offense," tight end Greg Olsen said. "That's on all of us."
Olsen, limited to four catches for 46 yards in his previous two games, re-emerged with six catches for 119 yards against the Eagles. All told, 10 Panthers caught passes.
Newton's numbers were solid outside of the interceptions, completing 25-of-40 passes for 306 yards. But interceptions can't simply be passed over, something Newton knows as well as anyone.
"I've got to be smarter than that," Newton said. "That just can't happen."