There wasn’t much scoring in the first half of Sunday’s game between the Panthers and Redskins, but Cam Newton made up for it in the second half.
Newton ran for one touchdown — tying Vince Young for the most rushing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback with seven — and passed for a touchdown as the Panthers piled on 24 points in the second half to run away with a 33-20 victory. Newton completed all eight of his passes in the final two quarters, for 151 yards, and looked nothing like the shaky quarterback who struggled against the Falcons last weekend. He thoroughly dominated the Washington defense to win his second game as an NFL starter.
He did much of his damage through the air to Steve Smith. The veteran, who has to be pretty happy he didn’t wind up forcing his way out of Carolina this offseason, caught seven passes for 143 yards. The duo has excellent chemistry and it was far too much for the Redskins to deal with as the game unfolded.
The Panthers defense was also much improved from recent weeks, although it is hard to tell how much John Beck and an injury to Tim Hightower might have had to do with that. Beck wound up with decent numbers — 22-of-37 for 227 yards with 80 of the yards coming on one drive — but he turned the ball over twice and didn’t have much luck moving the ball until the Panthers were up by two scores. Hightower was running well, but he left the game in the third quarter with what looked like a serious left knee injury (he’s set for an MRI tomorrow) and Ryan Torain wasn’t able to keep the ball moving on the ground.
The Redskins fell to 3-3 and have a trip to Buffalo and a date with the Niners ahead of them. They need to win at least one of those games to stay alive in the NFC East race and doing so will take a much better effort on both sides of the ball than they came up with today. Not helping matters on that front is a broken bone in wide receiver Santana Moss‘ hand.
Contention is likely a bridge too far for the 2-5 Panthers, but every day Newton has like this is one that draws them closer to a time when they can contend.