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Carolina Panthers rout Arizona Cardinals 34-10 in Cam Newton's return

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Liz Loza and Matt Harmon take a look at the Panthers/Cardinals matchup that marked Cam Newton's triumphant rejoining of the team.

Video Transcript

LIZ LOZA: Matt, your Cardiac Cats, if you will, I'm going to ask you to comment here. Because there's a lot. There's some nostalgia for you. Cam is obviously back. He screamed it to the crowd after rushing in a touchdown. And then he went back and passed a touchdown to Robby Anderson, who was probably thrilled to not be drawing it. Sam Darnold on the sidelines this week.

So-- and if, next week, Chase Young isn't available and Montez Sweat isn't fully healthy, then-- I don't know-- how are you feeling about Cam Newton? Keep pounding, right?

MATT HARMON: Oh, man, what a day. I mean, when Cam Newton comes in and rushes it-- like he plays two snaps, scores two touchdowns, it's just un-- I can't believe those dork referees called unsportsmanlike conduct. I know you can't take your helmet off, neh. But give me a break. Cam's back. The Cam is back. It was so exciting.

And, I don't know, I just-- look, PJ Walker even played a, you know, halfway decent game here too. You know, he was a distributor. But McCaffrey gets in the end zone for the first time in forever through the air. Oh, no, excuse me. That was called back. So we're still waiting on McCaffrey there.

But he catches the ball 10 times. We're still waiting. Thirteen carries for McCaffrey, 7.3 yards per carry, a long run of 15 yards. Like, I don't know, it's-- I think Cam, you know-- it's going to be hard for me to not get really excited about Cam Newton, especially this next week, and, you know, the fact that like he showed he's still one of the most unique goal-line weapons in the entire NFL despite his age, despite all that. You know, the offense needed something.

Look, I'm not delusional enough, I think, to get too excited about the Carolina Panthers the rest of the 2021. But Cam at least saves them from being an embarrassment. I mean there was a chance that this team could have sunk to the bottom, you know, like of the offensive rankings. And Sam Darnold was basically taking them there.

I mean, he was like-- from an EPA per play standpoint, from a success rate standpoint, yards per attempt standpoint, he was basically New York Jets' Sam Darnold by the end of his run there in Carolina. So I don't know that PJ Walker was going to save them either, but-- I don't know. I mean, for guys like DJ Moore, you know, who has seven targets in this game, it didn't quite work out obviously with PJ Walker behind center. I think we expected that to be the case.

But, you know, DJ Moore, Christian McCaffrey, maybe even Robby Anderson-- you know, Terrace Marshall gets two targets, no catches, but did catch a two-point conversion. I'm at least intrigued now that Cam Newton is back. But this was a surprising outing, especially on the Arizona side. Like whatever juju that Kliff Kingsbury was able to conjure to get, you know, a great game out of Colt McCoy in the year 2021, that burned out pretty quick.

LIZ LOZA: He also went out with a chest injury.

MATT HARMON: Yes.

LIZ LOZA: So there a continuity issue. I will give him that much.

MATT HARMON: I mean, still, he threw 20 passes and completed 11 of them before leaving that game.

LIZ LOZA: That's fair enough. That's fair enough. And Carolina's defense I feel like came to life again. Like they got after-- four sacks, two on each of these quarterbacks, and punished the run as well. James Conner finally gives fantasy managers a mercy touchdown, 10 carries, 39 yards. You do the math. That's not efficient. And a nice touchdown. So that's the gimme.

It is worth noting that like had game script worked a little differently-- Eno Benjamin did carry the ball six times. So I do think he's going to be involved in-- obviously, next week, we're assuming that Kyler Murray is going to be back. We're assuming that Nuk Hopkins is going to be back.

And so we're assuming the offense will be a little bit more explosive and that'll help these running backs a little bit. But I don't really-- you know, Christian Kirk is the target leader with eight. He converts seven of those for 58. It was just a really flat performance.

MATT HARMON: Yeah.

LIZ LOZA: I'm more interested--

MATT HARMON: We've just got to get Kyler back basically.

LIZ LOZA: Yeah.

MATT HARMON: We've just got to get Kyler back for this Cardinals team to hit any sort of ceiling. Last note on the Panthers too. I know this is-- like people roll their eyes at this stuff, but I saw a bunch of clips, you know, from Cam Newton on the sideline like having all of the guys huddled around him, like giving pointers to the young offensive players, stuff like that.

I'm sorry. That was not happening with Sam Darnold as the starting quarterback. Like there was never that vibe around the team. That was never a thing. And like this was the whole thesis of why--

LIZ LOZA: You want to take advice from Sam Darnold? Like Robby Anderson was screaming at him.

MATT HARMON: Yeah. Exactly. That's what I'm saying. Like it's an immediate vibes boost, at the very least, for the Carolina Panthers. Like there's a lot of good energy around this team right now. I think that stuff matters.

And this is the whole reason-- like part of the reason or at least the thesis behind why the Patriots cut Cam Newton-- at least this was Cam's theory about it, and a lot of people felt this way-- was because you can't just have a guy, a gravitational force like Cam Newton on the sideline as your backup quarterback or whatever.

And I think it's immediately kind of showing that that is the case with his role there in Carolina. Like guys are gravitating towards him, and I think he's going to be-- he's not going to be old Cam Newton, whatever. He's certainly going to be a fantasy factor because he's still a hoss back there running the ball. I think it's just a boost for Carolina. I remain very bullish on that.