Cardinals sack Newton, Panthers

Bob McManaman, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Cam Newton returned to the scene of his NFL debut, and just like the first time, he left with a loss.
The Arizona Cardinals sacked the Carolina Panthers quarterback seven times, intercepted him three other times and the offense did just enough to help the Cardinals score a 22-6 victory on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
It was the second straight win by the Cardinals (3-2), who scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter last week to edge the Buccaneers, 13-10.
"Those are (the) type of games we're going to need to keep putting together," said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, whose team has outscored its opponents 32-0 in the fourth quarter in all three of their wins. "You can call them ugly wins or any kind of wins you want; as long as they're wins, I love it."
Newton passed for 422 yards here two years ago, the most ever by a rookie quarterback starting his first NFL game, but the Panthers lost that game, too, 28-21.
This time, Newton completed 21 of 39 passes for 308 yards, but the sacks and the interceptions proved to be too costly. He and the Panthers were coming off a bye week following their 38-0 rout of the New York Giants -- Carolina's first shutout in five seasons.
But being held to two Graham Gano field goals wasn't nearly enough to get it done this week.
"It's too hard. In this league, it's too hard," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "There are too many good football players on both sides of the ball for both teams. If you don't score touchdowns at some point, it's going to be tough to win a game."
The Cardinals finished with just 253 total yards and withstood a shaky afternoon by quarterback Carson Palmer, who was intercepted three times. He completed 19 of 28 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown.
All three of his picks were poor throws and Palmer admitted as such afterward.
"The first one I was just trying to give us a jump ball opportunity and the guy (Robert Lester) ended up making a good play," Palmer said. "The other two, I can't try to get the ball to Larry (Fitzgerald) like that. You want to get him catches. You want to get him involved. You want to get him touches. But I can't force the ball to him to get those touches.
"I just need to do a better job of spreading the ball around."
Arizona's only real competent drive came in the third quarter when it went 85 yards on 10 plays, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run from Rashard Mendenhall that gave the Cardinals a 10-6 lead.
When the Panthers got the ball back, they immediately gave it back. On first-and-10 from his own 5-yard line, Newton was tackled in the end zone by defensive end Calais Campbell for a safety.
It was the first regular-season safety by the Cardinals in nine years and it came one play after the Panthers had to make personnel adjustments on their offensive line because of a knee injury to left guard Amini Silatolu.
Travelle Wharton replaced him and Campbell beat him and center Ryan Kalil to drag down Newton.
"Anytime you first get in there, you're going to be a little slow," Campbell said of Wharton, "and I do what I had to do. Anytime you put a backup in there, you've got to make the plays."
The Panthers (1-3) were still in this game after Campbell recorded the safety, but on their ensuing possession, Newton was picked off by inside linebacker Daryl Washington.
Washington, playing in his first game of the season after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, returned the interception 41 yards.
The Cardinals couldn't convert that turnover, just as they couldn't when Patrick Peterson intercepted a Newton pass in the second quarter and returned it 43 yards.
But the constant pressure and solid coverage by the Cardinals' defensive backs forced Newton to be almost perfect, and he wasn't. After gaining 259 yards in the first half, the Panthers were held to just 94 total yards in the second half.
"We have to go back, watch the film, and see what happened," Panthers receiver Ted Ginn Jr. said. "We had some good things going on in the beginning of the half, and then they threw some blitzes at us, which really messed us up a couple times. It's part of the game but you're supposed to bounce back. We fought. It just didn't come out that way."
Arizona padded its lead to 15-6 with a 50-yard field goal by Jay Feely, who also connected from 42 yards earlier.
Another Campbell sack of Newton, meanwhile, forced a fumble with a little more than two minutes left to play that sealed it for the Cardinals. Following a 40-yard return of a fumble recovery by Antoine Cason, Palmer found tight end Jim Dray in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown.
It was the first career touchdown for Dray.
"We had opportunities in the red zone multiple times and we just couldn't seem to get it together," Newton said. "We're not going to sob or get besides ourselves and go in our shells. We are going to continue to keep fighting."
Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby had two sacks and an interception.
NOTES: Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson, who lost the tip of his left middle finger during a game two weeks ago at New Orleans, missed his second consecutive game. He had hoped to play after returning to practice late last week. ... Carolina lost left guard Amini Silatolu to a knee injury in the third quarter. He did not return and Rivera said Silatolu would have an MRI on Monday morning. ... Peterson caught a pass from Palmer that was called back because of a third-quarter defensive holding penalty. ... The Panthers were without starting safety Quintin Mikell (ankle) and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (hamstring). ... Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams was held to 39 yards on 12 carries by the NFL's second-best defense against the run.

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