DETROIT — Cam Newton can feel his arm getting stronger every day, steadily rehabbing it even when it is feeling good after having surgery in March on his rotator cuff.
The rest of the NFL is seeing the results.
Newton threw three touchdowns for the second straight week to help the Carolina Panthers beat the Detroit Lions 27-24 on Sunday, winning their second straight road game. Carolina’s previous victory was at New England .
He was 26 of 33 for a season-high 335 yards, 17 of which came on a victory-sealing throw. Newton converted a third-and-9 from the Carolina 24 with a sharp pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 2 minutes left while clinging to a three-point lead against a team out of timeouts.
“He’s gotten healthier and that’s the truth,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “I’ve been saying this since we broke camp. It’s just a matter of him getting back to the opportunity to improve his arm strength. He really hadn’t had a training camp. Those first few games were really kind of his training camp and he was getting himself back into it. Now he’s had a couple of really good weeks. I think that’s a huge plus for him.”
It’s pretty good for the Panthers, too.
Carolina (4-1) broke a first-place tie with the idle Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.
The Lions (3-2) fell behind Green Bay atop the NFC North with their second straight setback at home. Unlike the last loss, a disheartening defeat to Atlanta due in part to an obscure NFL rule, Detroit gave up 24 straight points in a game the Panthers controlled.
Here are some things we learned following Carolina’s win over the Lions.
THAT’S GOING TO HURT
Matthew Stafford was sacked six times for the second straight week, and was hit many more times by the Panthers. He was limping late in the game with an injured right ankle, but stayed in the game behind his leaky offensive line.
“We’ve got to get it fixed,” Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said.
ON THE BOARD
Carolina rookie running back Christian McCaffrey scored his first NFL touchdown on a well-designed, 6-yard shovel pass from Newton that tied the game at 10 in the second quarter. Benjamin caught his first TD pass, a perfectly lofted 31-yard pass from Newton that put the Panthers up 24-10 in the third quarter.
Tight ends for both teams had breakout games. Making the most of an opportunity to play a big role with injured Greg Olsen out, Ed Dickson had five receptions for a career-high 175 yards. He had more yards in the game than he had in any of each of the previous three seasons in Carolina. He had 64- and 57-yard catches in the first half for two of his three receptions of 50-plus yards in his eight-year career. Detroit’s Darren Fells had a career-high two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter to give the Lions hopes for a comeback.
Newton wore a black hat with a white button on the left side to honor Rosie the Riveter before and after the game. He came under fire for making sexist comments to a female reporter this week. Newton apologized after losing an endorsement deal and getting criticized by the NFL.
“I was trying to find a way to kind of, hint a notion to all the women, hard-working women,” he said. “Did my homework on her and her impact on World War II, and not only her, but all the women and females who played a big impact in creating equipment for World War II and it was a symbolization for strong women.”
Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue was not at the game and is taking “some time off,” according to Mike Persinger, the executive sports editor of the newspaper. She asked Newton about Devin Funchess’ route running on Wednesday and Carolina’s quarterback laughed and said, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes. It’s funny.” Newton declined to provide much of a comment about her absence at the game.
The Panthers can’t enjoy their win too long because they host Philadelphia on Thursday night.
“We’ve got to get past this one quickly and start prepping,” Rivera said.
The Lions have a little more time to work on their inconsistent offense before playing Sunday at New Orleans.