Cam Newton

USA Today

12-9

That’s the final score of a great baseball game or a boring football game.

December 18, 2018 - 9:52 am
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12-9. That’s the final score of a great baseball game or a boring football game. And in the case of Saints-Panthers, it was the latter. 

Then again, it wasn’t a total buzzkill. The Panthers broke out this move

And they also scored with an interception return on a two-point conversion. 

And that was about it. Actually, that was exactly it. 

Remember a few weeks back, when the Panthers were lighting up the league with Norv Turner dialing up one insane scheme after another? Man…That was a long time ago. The NFL is like dog years. What happened eight weeks ago might as well be eight years ago. 

If I’d told you back then that the Panthers would score with a trick play and a two-point conversion return, you’d be so fired up. And you’d ask, what else did they do? And I would say: nothing.

They didn’t do anything else. Because Cam Newton’s shoulder is jacked up to hell and they were playing the Saints defense. Yeah, I said the Saints defense.

Remember when the Saints defense gave up more than 400 yards and 4 touchdowns to Ryan Fitzpatrick? Hell, remember Ryan Fitzpatrick?!? That was THIS season! That was barely more than three months ago. And it felt like it was three decades ago. 

That’s how quickly this league changes. Because the defense that gave up more than 400 yards and 4 TD passes to the guy who went to a good academic school, just shut down the Panthers to the tune of 247 yards and 13 first downs. 

Again, some of that is due to Cam’s shoulder and the issues that he’s having. And that the ball leaves his hand like a shot put now and can’t go more than 10 yards in the air. But give the Saints defense their due as well. 

Because the only points the Panthers scored were on a trick play and an interception return on a two point conversion attempt. New Orleans was two fluke plays away from a shutout.

Bad shoulder or not, they got after Cam. They sacked him four times and hit him another. And they talked about it. Especially Cam Jordan. 

Cam Jordan v. Cam Newton is one of the best rivalries in the NFL. And after the Saints swept the Panthers last year, Jordan sent Newton a bottle of wine. Newton responded last night with a pair of cleats that had a bottle of wine and a busted broom. 

Cam Jordan let Cam Newton hear him: “I feel like I was talking and he just ignores me. Like, is he older? He might have an older brother syndrome. I felt like I was the older one, but like I said, he shrugged off my sack. So I’m gonna continue to harass him. I’m gonna continue to put pressure on him.”

And he did. And you know he talked about it. The only question is: now that he’s effectively ended Carolina’s season, will Jordan send Newton another bottle of wine? Not according to Jordan: “I’m gonna drink my wine. I’m gonna keep it to myself for right now. You know, there’s something along the lines of not trying to make the bear mad. You know? Don’t poke the bear.”

Well, actually, on second thought: “They brought a cup with them, I think something along the lines of they brought their own juice in a cup, a juice box, I don’t know what it was. But I do know that he’s got to go back to the refrigerator and pull out a bigger cup.”

And there it is. The first ever incident of juice box smack. And it was good. Because Jordan is right. He and his are sipping from a giant mug right now, they’re drinking from a Stanley Cup sized glass and everyone else is working juice boxes. 

The thinking has been that when you look at the good teams right now, there are two groups: the ones with the good offenses and shaky defenses, like the Rams and Chiefs. Or the ones with the good defenses and shaky offense, like the Bears. And now there are the Saints - who have both.

Yeah, I’m going to ignore the fact that the Saints offense never really got rolling last night. That’ll happen. Especially when the offensive line is so busted up that you’re down to your last healthy lineman.

But you can’t tell me that isn’t a good offense. It is a great offense. And it is not one dimensional. You have Drew Brees and Michael Thomas, which is a lethal combo. And then you have Alvin Kamara. 

As much respect as he gets, I’m still not sure it’s enough. This guy is special. Still special. And scary as hell if you’re an opposing defense. And then you have Mark Ingram. And then you have Sean Payton running the show. And now they are one win away from home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Good luck to anyone trying to beat them in their house. Because when that dome’s a rockin’ and that offense is rollin’ and Cam Jordan is barkin’, look the hell out. 

If that seat in Ron Rivera's corner office was hot heading into Monday Night, he's gonna need to hit it with a glacier when he rolls back in and turns on the tape from last night. 

Red Zone interceptions. A fumble in field goal range. The kind of plays that take points off the board and cancel out a man's game effort from your defense. Hell, the kind of game that turns a 6-and-2 team into a 6-and-8 team. 

Look, I’ll get to the offense in a minute. But that defense balled the hell out. They ran a winning race. If you throw a box score in front of somebody and show them the Saints side, there's a real chance that we're having the same uncomfortable conversation about New Orleans that people are having about the Rams. 

Instead, it’s the Panthers, who are one of, if not the single most disappointing team in the league this year.  And it all starts with their QB 1., Cam Newton.  If you watched last night’s game, or any on the last several weeks, it’s clear, he’s not right.  And if you've been watching this Carolina offense for a while, it's pretty clear dude hasn't been right for a long time. 

When a 6-foot-5, 250 pound dude needs to wind up like Walter Johnson to chuck a 10-yard curl, you know something isn't right. When Cam Newton, a guy who always pushed the ball down field, has a spray chart like Cody Kessler, that's a tell. Cam only attempted one throw longer than 15 yards downfield. Dude's hurting. It's something the leader of America's Team, Triple G Williams acknowledged noticing in film study after the Browns beat Carolina, too. 

And it's pretty clear that the RPG holstered on Cam's right shoulder is only being held together by some duct table and a ball of twine.

Postgame, Cam was asked how his shoulder felt. His answer was brief: 

Cam how's your shoulder feel? 

It's aight. 

But, after some prodding, Cam finally came clean. It's not aight. It's not aight at all. “For people who, labrum, rotator cuff, just shoulder soreness. I wish I could say what the injury is because I don’t really know what it is either. No matter how much you push, no matter how much you ice, the anti-inflammatory you take. Trust me, i’ve did it. Acupuncture, massages. There’s not a night that goes by without me getting some type of work done on my arm. You just don’t have the strength.

“From the range of motion, you work on the range of motion then come game time and you never know how the game can play out. Of course you try to stay under 25-30 throws, but if you surpass that or you get hit on it, or you have to run, or you get tackled and fall on your shoulder, certain things happen, that's the game of football.”

That's a dude who sounds like he's a lot less than aight. And when pressed further, it wasn't just ICE or IBUPROPHEN, but a dude who is out there trying just about anything that they'll give him. “I've done everything... I've tried and done everything. Rub magic dust on it, this person, that person, have the placibo things done, and think certain things are what they are, nothing's changed, and it’s been the same way." 

If you're past the placebo pills and on to the "magic dust" phase of trying to treat your shoulder, it might be time to let Taylor Heinicke take over. Where are the lava rocks? Is Cam out there with patchuli oil during the week? Has he tried aromatherapy? Is dude bathing in Tiger Balm? 

Heinicke came on to throw a Hail Mary a couple weeks ago. Hell, he came out to throw a hail mary at the end of October, giving you an idea that this isn't something new that Newton has been dealing with. 

So you have a new owner; and he may want to go in a new direction; that’s his prerogative; but it really won’t matter who the head coach is, if Newton’s not right.  Technically they still have a 1% chance to make it to the playoffs, they've got a zero percent chance of winning in the future if they don't get Cam right. 

The D is there. Christian McCaffrey is a freaking boss. But if you ever wanna hear Ked Woodley bump that incredible jam again, they need #1 at 100%.