Cam Newton comes down to earth
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
There is a terrible malady that plagues athletes of all sports. It targets a specific part of the player population and can have a devastating effect on one’s season. I’m not referring to the more common hockey ailment, Markus Näslund syndrome (a.k.a playoff choking). Instead, I’m speaking of the infamous sophomore slump. And the unfortunate victim this year is Cam Newton.
While his yardage totals have looked fine (303, 253, 242) through the first three games, Newton hasn’t been up to par. The interception column is currently about as attractive as the prospect of having Jimmy Clausen as your starting QB. With five picks through three games, Newton is on pace for almost 27 interceptions; that’s Brett Favre territory. Newton’s only good game this year (as of this writing) was against the Saints. But let’s face it, who doesn’t have a good game against that New Orleans “defense.” With the Saints game taken out of the equation, Newton’s QB rating drops to a 61.95, his passing percentage dips to 61.9%, and he’d have 545 yards through the air, five interceptions, one touchdown, five sacks, and a mere 10 yards on the ground with a lone TD. These aren’t exactly superstar numbers. And they certainly aren’t what anyone was expecting from the second-year pro.
The audible clapping noise heard every Sunday is the sound of Newton fantasy football owners facepalming like there’s no tomorrow.
While expectations were probably a bit too high for Newton coming into the season, he should be doing better than this. Before the year started, I had Carolina pegged for a playoff team, with injuries the only thing that could really derail them. Surprisingly, it’s Newton that’s weighing them down, and if they want a shot at the post-season, he’d better figure it out fast.
Moving on, Reggie Bush has carried his remarkable form from last season into this year. The USC alumni was in the top five for rushing yards after week three, despite sitting out the second half with a minor knee injury. Bush has continued to show that he’s not just a five to 10 carry a game scatback, and he can, in fact, run between the tackles and grind out yards. He’s always had the knock on him in the NFL that he’d never amount to anything more than a luxury out of the backfield, and it’s great to see him prove his detractors wrong. While it’s true that he is benefitting from having a rookie QB in Tannehill (constant dump passes), Bush has two talented early draft picks sitting behind him on the depth chart, and they’ve seen almost no action this year. The coaching staff believes in him, and Reggie is delivering the goods.
The Monday Nighter between Green Bay and Seattle was an absolute disgrace. There were numerous penalties all over the field that made no sense. One of my favourites was the Oscar-winning performance by Sidney Rice down the sideline for a pass interference call. However, the major issue was the final play of the game. The Seahawks tossed up a Hail Mary to Golden Tate and Green Bay picked it off. Or at least that’s what the world saw. According to the refs, Tate managed to secure possession while M.D. Jennings had it tucked against his chest. As a direct result of the play, Seattle won the game. Mind boggling. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, Tate committed an act of blatant offensive pass interference just before the ball arrived, shoving Sam Shields with two hands to the ground before going up for the “catch.”
The good news from all this? The real refs are back, and no one should be surprised. After all the blunders that have gone on this season, the NFL’s refereeing situation was becoming a very public embarrassment. They couldn’t afford not to bring the pros back, so they bit the bullet and paid them the extra $5 a game or whatever the amount was. What’s a few thousand to these moneybag owners anyway?