Rapid Reactions: Cam Newton provides spark, defense locks down Cardinals

Cam Newton hugs Donte Jackson

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Yes, he was back. And it didn't take long to remind anyone of it.

Or to remind folks that the Panthers could be OK.

They jumped out to a quick lead Sunday thanks to new quarterback Cam Newton, and piled on for a 34-10 win over the Cardinals.

That got them back to 5-5 on the season, and allowed them to set aside the thoughts of losing five of their last six games.

Newton didn't start, but contributed to touchdowns on his first two snaps.

On the first, he came in for a goal-line package, stiff-armed Cardinals linebacker Zaven Collins at the line, and ran over linebacker Isaiah Simmons at the goal line, catching the Cardinals and all the people in State Farm Stadium off guard.

We thought it might take a minute for Newton to contribute, since he signed on Thursday, and only had a brief walk-through Friday and one practice Saturday to acclimate to his new/old teammates.

But on the fifth offensive snap of the game, he was back in the end zone, and exuberantly said so. It was so exuberant he drew a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, but the shot of energy it provided seemed worth the 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff.

A fourth-down stop of the Cardinals and three more snaps for starting quarterback P.J. Walker later, Newton took the field for his second snap, and this time he wasn't just a runner.

He found the recently slumping Robby Anderson for a quick touchdown pass, and a 14-0 lead.

Newton stopped scoring touchdowns after that, and had limited work (befitting his limited prep time).

It was enough for the day. Newton finished 3-of-4 for eight yards and a touchdown, and three carries for 14 yards and a score. They're going to expect more of him soon, certainly by next week's game against Washington (and the Football Team just beat Tampa Bay Sunday).

For the moment, Newton was exactly what an ailing offense needed. The Panthers had scored just one touchdown in the previous three games.

But more than points, the Panthers had a spark on Sunday, and that's what they needed most of all as they try to hang into the NFC playoff chase.

— Walker improved to 2-0 as an NFL starter, his second successful relief appearance after last year's win over the Lions. Walker finished 22-of-29 for 167 yards and an interception.

His job was made easier by Christian McCaffrey, who totaled 161 scrimmage yards on 23 touches – and made it look easy.

— It's worth remembering, the Cardinals had only lost once all season, before Sunday. But Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is now 2-0 against them.

While some people want to derisively describe them as a "college defense" at times, it worked again against what is a Cardinals offense with roots in the college game.

It didn't hurt that they were starting Colt McCoy at quarterback instead of Kyler Murray, and they were also without star wideout DeAndre Hopkins. But the Panthers match up well against a team built for speed and spacing, as opposed to the physical run games of teams such as the Cowboys and Vikings.

— The Panthers defense, to be fair, was dominant.

In addition to the early fourth-down stop, they also got a strip-sack from Haason Reddick and an interception from Donte Jackson.

They finished the game allowing 169 yards with four sacks.

— The new-look offensive line likely benefited from the run game and a couple of mobile quarterbacks.

But they also protected well enough against the Cardinals, and finished with a clean sheet, allowing no sacks for just the second time this year.

The other time was in Atlanta when they ran 47 times, and they only allowed one sack last week against the Patriots.

Then again, this was the seventh different combination in 10 games, so it's hard to draw too reliable of a trend line.

New left tackle Dennis Daley was called for a couple of holds and a false start, but they'll take it while they adjust to a new offensive vibe. Daley was out there with left guard Michael Jordan, center Pat Elflein, right guard Trent Scott, and right tackle Taylor Moton.

Backup Brady Christensen was in at left tackle in the fourth quarter.

— The Panthers will have some injury questions after this game.

Defensive back Myles Hartsfield left on a cart after a second-half hand injury, and did not return. He had come back to the lineup after a stint on IR earlier this year, following a wrist injury in the opener.

— And last but not least, Panthers kicker Zane Gonzalez had a day in his return. The former Cardinals and Arizona State kicker hit four field goals, running his streak to 16 consecutive makes.

See photos from State Farm Stadium as Carolina takes on Arizona in Week 10.

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