Tag Archives: Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton Proves His Draft Day Critics Wrong

28 Jan
SuperCam2

Cam Newton flexing his Superman pose after scoring a touchdown against Tampa Bay. Newton led the Panthers to Super Bowl 50.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will be coming into Super Bowl 50 with a myriad of accolades thanks to the NFL and a target placed on his back by the Denver Broncos defense.

Newton was voted the NFL’s Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press and the Pro Football Writer’s of America. He’ll be taking on future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning when the Super Bowl is played on Feb. 7 at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

When you look at his stats this season, it reminds me of something one would see in a John Madden football video game. Newton passed for 3,837 yards and threw 35 touchdown passes. He also ran for 636 yards and scored 10 rushing touchdowns.

In total, Newton accounted for 4,473 yards and 45 touchdowns. At 6-5, 245 pounds, Newton is bigger than some linebackers and defensive ends and is a punishing runner.

During the 2015 season, Newton made himself into one of the league’s elite players and arguably elite quarterbacks. He was voted the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year.

But what makes all of the praise he’s getting now so ironic is that many of the people lauding him were pouring haterade by the gallon on Newton in the days leading up to his being taken as the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Coming out of college, draft experts and NFL pundits alike trashed Newton by throwing out every racist stereotype of Black quarterbacks that had ever existed.

Never mind that he had won a national championship at Auburn, a junior college championship the previous year and was the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, all the so-called experts questioned his intelligence and his leadership.

Most of the criticism centered on a perceived inability to read NFL defenses and how that inability would all but ensure he wouldn’t make it in the NFL. These “experts” also said he was arrogant because he told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that he planned on being an icon and an entertainer.

Some so-called experts including Hall of Famer and Fox Sports football analyst Terry Bradshaw, said that former University of Missouri star Blaine Gabbert and University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker were better than Newton.

ESPN’s Skip Bayless said Newton didn’t have accuracy of a Tim Tebow, who is now a college football analyst on the Worldwide Leader In Sports.

One columnist of a popular sports website said Newton was going to be a bust along the lines of quarterbacks Ryan Leaf, Matt Leinart and Vince Young.

Of course, Newton did get kicked off the football team at Florida for stealing a laptop, a crime in which all of the charges were dropped due to a pre-trial intervention program in Florida. There were also reports of academic misconduct as well.

And then there’s the charge that Newton father, Cecil, was trying to peddle his son’s services to Mississippi State for $180,000. That allegation was never proven and Auburn was not sanctioned by the NCAA because of it.

Meanwhile, as the investigation into those alleged NCAA violations was reported on all the major sports networks, Newton never wavered in his focus in leading the Tigers to a national championship. One of those games include Newton leading Auburn back from a 24-0 deficit on the road against a Nick Saban-coached University of Alabama squad that was coming off a national championship the year before.

And yet, Newton’s critics said that the recent Auburn University graduate didn’t have the IQ or leadership ability to be an NFL quarterback, which was completely absurd because you don’t win a national championship without being a team leader and having the mental toughness to stay focused in the face of all of the hoopla around the possibility of NCAA sanctions.

But despite struggling to adjust to the pro game, something all young quarterbacks do, and despite doing some sulking on the sidelines his second year in the league, something that you’d also expect from a 23-year-old and that veterans such as Steve Smith Sr. quickly got him out of, Newton has led the Panthers to three straight playoff appearances including this year’s Super Bowl run.

This year, Newton showed that he could make other around him better, something he did at Auburn. When Carolina’s best receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending injury, Newton utilized his tight end, Greg Olsen as a deep receiver and he’s made Devin Funchess, Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery into better receivers.

Whether Newton leads Carolina to a Super Bowl victory or not on Feb. 7 , he can say to his Draft Day critics that old Kool Moe Dee lyric, “How ya like me now?”

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After Dominating Carolina, It’s Bring On Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers

12 Nov

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Happy days appear to be here again for Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. He came up big against the Carolina Panthers Monday night. His next assignment will be at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Happy days appear to be here again for Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. He came up big against the Carolina Panthers Monday night. His next assignment will be at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA— The competitive portion of Monday Night’s Eagles-Panthers game ended shortly before halftime mainly because Carolina was overmatched, undermanned and had absolutely nothing for the Birds.

The Eagles were able to cruise to an easy 45-14 win over the Panthers because they scored in all three phases of the game—offense, defense and special teams-despite having just 37 yards rushing as a team. To be honest, the Birds could have beaten Carolina with one hand tied behind their backs.

Defensively, the Eagles front-seven teed off on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, sacking him nine times and forcing four turnovers—three interceptions and two fumbles. Connor Barwin had three and a half sacks by himself.

The Birds defense cut off Newton’s running lanes and put pressure on him throughout the game.

Connor Barwin (98) and Brandon Graham converge on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.  The Eagles had eight sacks. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Connor Barwin (98) and Brandon Graham converge on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. The Eagles had nine sacks. Photo by Webster Riddick.

“The idea was definitely don’t let him run up the middle, don’t let him go North,” Barwin said. “When he gets North that stride can open up on you. He’s gonna run East-West, we thought that we could run him down.”

On offense, Mark Sanchez not only managed the offense well, he made some plays in the passing game and basically picked the Carolina defense apart. He completed 20-of-371 passes for 330 yards and two touchdown passes.

After some tough times with the New York Jets, Sanchez looked like a guy who was having funs running the Eagles uptempo offense. Fun was something he didn’t have too much of during his days with the Jets.

The win over the Panthers was his Sanchez’s start in two years.

“I don’t know. It was just a great night. It was so fun. It was so fun to get back out on the field. I’m very blessed and I thank God for the opportunity. It was really cool,” Sanchez said. “It’s been a while, and I’ve been out of it for a little bit and away from the game. It’s good to get back. It’s good to get back in an environment like this in front of this crowd and in front of all of those guys that work so hard during the week. It’s so fun to watch it pay off.”

His favorite target was rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who had a pretty good game, catching seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. The six-foot-three Matthews is getting better with every game.

“I think it’s definitely slowing down,” Matthews said. “I think early on you look at the game in a sense that I gotta hurry up and do something good. I gotta go out and make a play.

“But you can’t press it, you can’t rush it, you just gotta let the game come to you and just continue to play with that confidence and never get too far outside the game and that’s what I’m learning …Play fast, but in your mind slow the game.”

Meanwhile, Head coach Chip Kelly was not happy with the small numbers the Eagles produced in the running game. Running back LeSean McCoy had just 19 yards on 12 carries.

“We didn’t execute the way we needed to execute in the run game,” Kelly said.

Darren Sproles had another electrifying performance with a 65-yard punt return and an eight-yard run for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 17-7 lead after the first quarter. It was the ninth return touchdown of the year for the Birds special teams and defense.

By the end of the second quarter, it was a wrap. Sanchez hit rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews for a 13-yard touchdown pass and cornerback Bradley Fletcher scored on a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Next week, the Eagles will face one of their biggest tests of the season when they head out to the Midwest to take on a Green Bay Packers squad that destroyed the Chicago Bears in a 55-14 romp at Lambeau Field.

On Sunday night, Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers carved up the Bears defense for 315 yards and six touchdown passes. The former Cal star can not only chuck it from the pocket, but he can also do it on the run.

Something not lost on the Eagles defense.

“You know what you get when you play the Packers. You know you got an explosive offense that can put up points at any time,” said Eagles free safety Malcolm Jenkins. “Rogers is really the only duel threat quarterback that really excels at both scrambling and he’s one of the real good pocket passers in the league. You have to pick your poison.

“If they get him going, it could be a long day for the defense.”

BUC-king Trends: The Numbers Behind Tampa’s Unlikely Upset of Pittsburgh

1 Oct

By Barry Federovitch
For the Chris Murray Report

Tampa's Vincent Jackson catches the winning touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Glennon in a 27-24 win over the Steelers.

Tampa’s Vincent Jackson catches the winning touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Glennon in a 27-24 win over the Steelers.

When it comes to upsets, you will be hard pressed to find one historically more unlikely this season than Sunday’s Tampa Bay win over Pittsburgh.

Think that’s an overstatement?

Consider: the Steelers’ highest winning percentage against any franchise in the league before Sunday? .889 against the Bucs. Before the 27-24 shocker, the Bucs had not beaten the Steelers in 16 years (a 16-3 defensive struggle in Tampa late in the 1998 season). The Bucs were 1-8 all-time against the Steelers and were 0-3 in Pittsburgh.

A small sample size for sure. But Steelers-Bucs was the definition of a one-sided rivalry; late in 1976, when the expansion Bucs were arguably the worst team of all-time, they faced the Steel Curtain defense in Pittsburgh at the peak of its powers … And the results were predictable. Pittsburgh won 42-0 in a game that easily could have been 70-0. In the two games in Pittsburgh that followed, the Bucs not only didn’t win, but failed to score a touchdown, getting outscored 79-15 before Sunday.

Talk about putrid. Five field goals in 12 quarters in Pittsburgh. An average of 198 yards total offense in those three games or barely more than half the 350 the Bucs put up Sunday.

Had the Steelers known any of this they could be forgiven for being overconfident, particularly when they still had the lead in the fourth quarter. With Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator at home, the Steelers were 65-0 when leading in the fourth quarter before Mike Glennon’s five-yard touchdown toss to a diving Vincent Jackson with seven seconds left.

This not only gave the Bucs the most points they have ever scored in a game against the Steelers, but marked only the third time they ever managed to score more than 16 against them.

Fox producers were so sure that the Bucs wouldn’t win that with 1:35 to go they took a page out of NBC prematurely congratulating the Boston Red Sox for winning the 1986 World Series over the New York Mets; Fox flashed the graphic that NFL teams that start 3-1 make the playoffs 65 percent of the time and had Steelers 3-1 in bold underneath the stat.

Talk about a kiss of death.

In the bigger picture what will this mean? Maybe more for the Steelers than the Bucs, who must travel to New Orleans in Week Five. But if you’re Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith, could you ask for a more dramatic turnaround in 10 days following the humiliating 56-14 demolition at Atlanta?

When all three NFC South teams also lost on Sunday, it marked the first time in 106 games, going back to Game 10 of the 2007 season when the Bucs won and gained a game on all three division rivals. That’s pre-Greg Schiano, pre-Raheem Morris, going back to Jon Gruden’s next-to-last season in Tampa.

Since no one in the division owns a winning record, the Bucs, who entered Sunday with a minus-50 point differential, are back to within a game of first place and can move into a tie for the top spot with a win and losses by injury-riddled Carolina and Atlanta.

Not that the Bucs have had much of a chance to gain ground on anyone of late before Sunday, they were 11-34 over their previous 45 games. That’s not just a little slump; it’s the Bucs’ worst 45-game stretch since the Ray Perkins-Leeman Bennett days more than a quarter century ago.

And the Steelers against NFC South opponents? The polar opposite.

Fresh off a romp over the defending division champion Panthers, Pittsburgh was 32-11-1 all-time against the four NFC South teams. The majority of those 44 games weren’t scoring shootouts either; only seven times did teams that are now part of the NFC South score as many as 27 points in a game … And only twice ever in Pittsburgh (in a history that goes back to 1966).

One-game aberration? Fluke or change in longstanding trend? We will leave that for another day.

But to the Bucs’ delight and Steelers’ dismay, Sunday’s game turned history on its ear.

Flyer Can’t Overcome Slow Start in Loss to Carolina

23 Jan

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Claude Giroux scored the Flyers first goal in the loss to Carolina Photo by Webster Riddick.

Claude Giroux scored the Flyers first goal in the loss to Carolina Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—For the first 39 ½ minutes in their game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Flyers looked like a team that didn’t get enough sleep the previous night. The team hadn’t skated in two days thanks to Tuesday’s snowstorm. They were down 2-0 until they got a goal from Claude Giroux with 25 seconds left in the second period.

Three minutes into the third period, a goal by Scott Hartnell evened the game and it looked like the Flyers had found their energy.

Unfortunately, the Flyers once again found out that you can’t fall behind a team and expect to win.   Carolina came with a 3-2 win over the Flyers in front of a sell-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night.

 Jiri Tlusty’s goal with 6:10 remaining in the third period was the game-winner for the Hurricanes (21-19-9).  

“We didn’t play very good and we ended up losing the game,” said Flyer head coach Craig Berube. “The whole game we weren’t very good. You’ve got to have a lot more energy than that.”

In the first period, the Flyers (25-20-6) couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end and managed to get off just three shots.

“We can’t be shooting ourselves in the foot like this we need to have better starts,” Giroux said. “I think first period was the way we wanted to play. I know we didn’t skate for two days, but that’s not good enough.”

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes Alexander Semin provided the only scoring of the period when he took a pass from center Eric Staal near the right-wing circle and shot it past Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros and goalie Steve Mason for a 1-0 lead.

“It was just a heck of a shot,” Mason said. “He got a really good shot through (Meszaros) body a little bit. It was just a nice shot.”

The Hurricanes upped the margin to 2-0 on a break-away goal by center Nathan Gerbe, who  took control of the puck that went through the leg of defenseman Luke Schenn, who was standing at the top of the blue near the right wing circle.

Late in the second period, the Flyers got into the scoring column a goal by Giroux, who rebounded a shot by Jakub Voracek that bounced off the pad of goalie Anton Khudobin. Giroux, who was to the left of Khudobin, somehow got the puck behind the Carolina goalkeeper and into the net.

“When (Giroux) scored late that was a big goal for us to give us some momentum,” said Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell.

The Flyers would even things three minutes into the third period on a power-play goal by Hartnell, who shot the puck into the net on a rebound off a shot from Wayne Simmonds that was blocked by Khudobin.

After Hartnell’s goal, the Flyers simply could not sustain the momentum and they looked like a team struggling to find some energy on the offensive end. On defense, they allowed Tlusty’s goal because Voracek broke his stick and didn’t have enough time to get a new one from the bench.  

For the last two games going back to Monday’s overtime shoot-out loss to the New York Islander, the Flyers have been lulled into thinking they can just turn it and off even if they fall behind as they did in Wednesday’s game.

“We just sat back and thought that we were going to wait until overtime and maybe win it in a shootout,” Hartnell said. “That’s not the way to play. It hasn’t been our ‘MO’ when we’ve been successful, but we’ll change that.”