Detroit Lions Preseason: Straight Talk Needed, Not A Sales Pitch

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Last Week: 14

Perhaps the most embarrassing part of the Carolina Panthers' 17-3 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday was that the Panthers' allegedly high-powered offense went down against a team whose rookie quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky) completed four passes on seven attempts. When you lose to a team whose offensive strategies come out of the 1930s, it means your own offense isn't working. Newton completed 21 of 34 passes for 211 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions against the Bears; it was one of his worst performances in a season that's been highly inconsistent.

Rookie safety Eddie Jackson scored both of Chicago's touchdowns, and though Newton is listed as the party responsible for the first-quarter fumble Jackson returned 75 yards for a touchdown, it was less a fumble and more an option pitch rookie receiver Curtis Samuel couldn't hold on to. Newton's first pick, which Jackson returned 76 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, was supposed to be a simple backside slant to receiver Kelvin Benjamin. But cornerback Prince Amukamara was playing Benjamin with tight coverage, and Benjamin failed to box Amukamara out of the play. Given Benjamin's size advantage and the quick-throw concept, much of the blame for that one can be placed on the receiver. Benjamin has to use his size and physicality to take the cornerback out and get the ball.

Newton's second pick came halfway through the fourth quarter—here, he was evading Chicago's pressure (which the Bears brought effectively all day) and tried to hit running back Christian McCaffrey with an intermediate throw at the right sideline. McCaffrey was trying to move to the right side in coordination with Newton's rollout, and Danny Trevathan was in front of him. Newton could have arced the ball over Trevathan's head and hit McCaffrey in stride, but he inexplicably threw the ball right to the linebacker. It was a bad play, and through Newton was pressured, he needs to react more effectively to what's around him in situations like that.

The real story of Newton's day was how often he was pressured—22 times in 43 dropbacks, which was one more pressure than the Indianapolis Colts' Jacoby Brissett had, and Brissett was sacked 10 times by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Newton took five sacks, attempted 14 passes and completed nine for 99 yards and the pick to Trevathan while under duress. The Bears were bringing creative blitzes and pressure packages, especially with linebacker Leonard Floyd, and Carolina's underwhelming offensive line couldn't handle it. Carolina's offense isn't creative enough to offset that kind of pressure, and Newton took the brunt of that. The Panthers have said that they want to call fewer designed runs for Newton, but with sub-optimal protection and no other effective options, they may have to reverse course. 

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