The wraps came off Cam Newton on Sunday. It’s no coincidence that he suddently resembled the quarterback who won the 2015 Most Valuable Player award.
Newton passed for 316 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 44 yards and another score in Carolina’s 33-30 win at New England.
It was a breakthrough performance for a quarterback coming off a colossally disappointing 2016 season and offseason shoulder surgery. Newton averaged 188.7 yards passing and gained a total 46 rushing yards while throwing twice as many interceptions as touchdowns in the Panthers’ first three outings this season.
“We just need to stop the run and put them into 3rd-and-long situations,” Cincinnati safety George Iloka said. “Every week, we challenge ourselves to be the best defense on the field.”
The Bengals’ defense wasn’t quite as good as whoever was getting to feast on Andy Dalton mistakes the first two weeks. But since Bill Lazor became offensive coordinator after a sloppy Week 2 loss to Houston, Dalton has looked like the guy who guided Cincinnati to four straight playoff berths.
In two games with Lazor calling the shots, Dalton has produced passer ratings of 124.1 and 146.0. In the rout of Cleveland, Dalton completed 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
Snead and McVay know there are tougher defenses ahead on the schedule, including matchups with divisional foes Seattle and Arizona (each twice), plus road trips to face the solid defenses of the Vikings and Giants.
But they like what they’ve seen so far and are hoping the success carries through the regular season and into the playoffs.