Watching a primetime blowout like the one the Panthers and Eagles gave us last night is never all that fun, but they are even less fun when they include an increasingly hobbled quarterback getting tortured on national TV.
Cam Newton was sacked a career-high nine times last night, and when he wasn't getting smashed into the turf by the Eagles defense, he was grimacing and limping around like a guy who had no business being on the field. Despite his quarterback— who is fresh off an offseason ankle surgery and a fractured rib that kept him out of action in Week 1—getting punished on what felt like every play, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera decided to stick with Newton throughout the whole game. Afterward, Rivera said that he left Newton in because he was thinking about "the long haul." From the Charlotte Observer:
"I thought Cam needed to get a rhythm going. He got a rhythm going, and I stuck with him. I'm not looking for short-term fixes. I'm looking for the long haul. If he's going to be our quarterback, he's got to work himself through these things, and that's what I'm looking for."
You'd expect that a coach who was thinking long-term would want to get his battered franchise quarterback out of a game that was over by halftime, but I guess that's none of our business. As for the need to get Newton in a rhythm, that's a tough thing for any quarterback to accomplish while playing behind an offensive line made up of matadors. The Panthers started two undrafted rookies on the offensive line last night, and they made the Eagles look like the '85 Bears. Look at this disaster:
That's Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin, who is having himself a nice season, looking like a cross between J.J. Watt and Ndamukong Suh while on his way to racking up 3.5 sacks on the night. There's no rhythm to be had for any quarterback whose protection is just getting run right the fuck over.
Newton's already been sacked 30 times this year (he was brought down 43 times all of last season), and his sack rate is a career-high 9.2 percent, good for the third-highest rate in the league. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Newton has been hit almost twice as much as any other quarterback since coming into the league in 2011.
Saddled with a line that can't function and a group of receivers that can't get open fast enough, there's no reason to think that Newton's life is going to get any easier during the final leg of the season. He seems game to tough it out, but it's hard to imagine him surviving many more beatings like the one he took last night.