Cam Newton forfeits heave as backup Taylor Heinicke steps in
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton passed an opportunity to backup Taylor Heinicke.
Cam Newton was limited all week with soreness in his throwing shoulder despite not appearing on the final Carolina Panthers injury report for a Week 8 game against the Baltimore Ravens. While there was never any doubt that Newton would play, his limitations led to some hesitation about how prepared Carolina is to deal with losing their franchise quarterback.
Many teams throughout the NFL would look significantly different without their lead signal caller. Imagine for a moment the New England Patriots without Tom Brady, Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers or New Orleans Saints minus Drew Brees – all would immediately suffer on offense and the Panthers are no different.
Newton showed no ill effects of the soreness during an epic performance against the No. 1 ranked defense in football, completing all but eight of his 29 pass attempts for 219 yards and two touchdowns. The Panthers franchise quarterback also added another score on the ground, leading all rushers (Baltimore included) with 52 yards.
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However, there was one moment just before the half when the quarterback hesitated and ammunition for those questioning whether Newton should be playing was provided. Newton has completed just four balls over 20-yards down the field and while much of the play calling and design has been to reduce his down field throws to improve his accuracy, some alterations may be forced due to the soreness Newton is experiencing.
Faced with an approximate 50-yard ‘Hail Mary’ after it appeared coach Ron Rivera would not attempt another 60-plus yard field goal with Graham Gano, Newton instead let the clock run out for a delay of game penalty, moving the Panthers back to the 49-yard line.
His reasoning revolved around the shoulder and not making that throw as he mentioned post game.
"“I knew how I was feeling at that time and felt that Heinicke put our team in the best situation.”"
Enter Taylor Heinicke, who has completed just one NFL pass in his career on Christmas Day last year as a member of the Houston Texans. Heinicke was inserted to make the attempt, a long pass with nearly no chance at scoring while time expired, but as the team lined up, veteran tight end Greg Olsen saw he would be open and totally changed the game plan.
After yelling at Heinicke to get his attention, the two connected for a 13-yard gain leaving two-seconds on the clock for a safer 54-yard successful field goal attempt from Gano. The brief series of events unfolded quickly but Carolina was the beneficiary and Heinicke proved capable.
Remaining perfect, Heinicke is now two-for-two in NFL pass attempts with his latest leading to points.