The Carolina Panthers turned in a shockingly pitiful performance on Sunday. The Panthers were thoroughly beaten by a surging Miami Dolphins team to the tune of 33-10. It served as Carolina's second consecutive defeat. Sunday's loss revealed several team-building issues in every area, but the quarterback performance of the returning Cam Newton was especially concerning. Newton dumbfoundedly completed just 5-of-21 passing attempts for 92 yards and two interceptions.
Newton often makes up for a lack of production in the passing game by using his dual-threat ability to make an impact with his legs, but that wasn't the case on Sunday. Newton added just five rushing yards via three carries. Newton's completion percentage of 23% competed for an all-time worst mark, and his quarterback rating of 5.8 was so low that it's relatively unheard of. Newton was eventually benched in the second half in favor of P.J. Walker, a situation that mercilessly put a bow on a truly awful day for all involved.
Carolina's quarterback situation may intensify in the weeks to come. Sam Darnold has reportedly resumed throwing and may be healthy enough to return to action sooner rather than later. The Panthers are now entering a much-needed Week 13 bye and head coach Matt Rhule has already committed to Newton as the starter for their Week 14 showdown with the Atlanta Falcons.
Newton's historically poor showdown against the Dolphins may open a hypothetical door for Darnold to recapture the starting job at some point, but it's important to check any recency bias at the door when making this important evaluation and decision. While Newton deserves the fair share of criticism he'll receive for Sunday's lackluster performance, it's critical to note how we arrived here in the first place. Darnold was truly abysmal before suffering a fractured scapula in an early November blowout loss to the New England Patriots. The injury landed Darnold on injured reserve, but he was at risk of being replaced as the starter regardless of his health status. The former USC quarterback was consistently making questionable decisions in the face of pressure. Darnold threw an astounding 10 interceptions in his latest six appearances under center. The sample size was large enough to evaluate Darnold, and the results were less than ideal.
Although we refuse to dismiss how poorly Newton played on Sunday, it's worth noting he's received just two handfuls of practice sessions since returning to Charlotte. Darnold was in rather abysmal form despite having an entire offseason to grasp offensive coordinator Joe Brady's system. Newton's leash should be long as he continues to work through the kinks. Darnold received a fair opportunity to build and sustain chemistry with Carolina's surrounding weapons, but continued to be plagued by the same negative traits that ran him out of New York.
Newton's current form leaves plenty to be desired, but he will continue to give the Panthers the best chance to win on a weekly basis.