Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is known for taking, and absorbing, a lot of hits, but rarely does the quarterback show that’s he’s fazed by them.
But after the Panthers’ first offensive play from scrimmage in Sunday’s 20-16 victory over the Miami Dolphins, Newton was spitting blood.
Newton was hit by Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake after releasing the ball, and the force caused him to bite his tongue.
“I bit my tongue and it was numb for a minute, but it didn’t have any effect on me as far as game play. I wanted to make sure my tongue was still intact,” Newton said. “I had to feel around for it for a minute and I felt it so I was good.”
Newton said he was recently reading about horror stories in football, and one was where a football player swallowed his tongue. That spooked Newton, but the coach thought the hit affected him for more than just that play.
“It took him a little bit to get refocused,” Ron Rivera said. “Sometimes that does that, it spooks the quarterback a little bit. And I think our offensive line was spooked a little bit too. And they got a little concerned after that and they didn’t play well.”
Right tackle Byron Bell described the line’s day as “off and on” after allowing Newton to be sacked twice for 15 yards and helping the running game get 136 yards on the ground.
Left tackle Jordan Gross, who was guarding Wake on that play, said he could “tell something was up” with Newton after the play.
“But I’ve said it since the day he walked in here, Cam’s as tough as they come,” Gross said. “He gets hit, gets up and keeps swinging. I really respect that out of him and he doesn’t ever point fingers or get upset.”
The hit was a close-call for Newton, who does not wear a mouthpiece when playing. Though he’s not fond of wearing one, he said he may look at doing so in the future.
“Hopefully my mom is not listening to this because she always said you get one set of teeth,” Newton said. “I get cotton mouth a lot wearing a mouthpiece, especially doing as much talking as I do calling the play, so I chew gum. It’s something I need to look at if we continue to have a problem.”
Addison steps in : Mario Addison wasted little time getting a sack in his first start of the season.
Playing in place of injured Charles Johnson, the third-year defensive end sacked Ryan Tannehill on third down on the Dolphins’ second drive of the game.
Addison tackled Tannehill by the feet for a loss for 12 yards, backing Miami inside its own 20 for a punt.
“I did exactly what coach told me to: Come off the edge, use my speed and the outcome, I had a sack,” Addison said. “Coaches, they had faith in me knowing I could get the job done. Filling Charles Johnson’s shoes is not easy. That’s big shoes to fill.”
It was the first full sack for Addison this year after he shared one earlier this season. And he wasn’t the only one filling in for Johnson.
Rivera rotated Addison, Frank Alexander and Wes Horton at defensive end. The trio combined for four tackles and helped hold Miami’s rushing game to 52 yards.
“Charles Johnson is a great leader and he’s led us this far and he’s conditioned us to play how we play and think how we think,” defensive end Greg Hardy said. “I feel like we did him proud.”
Nortman’s big day : Long snapper J.J. Jansen called punter Brad Nortman the MVP of the special teams, and it was easy to see how.
Nortman boomed seven punts an average of 56.7 yards, with a net average of 46.6. That blasted his average of 45.9 yards per punt and an average net of 39.2.
Nortman, in his second year out of Wisconsin, hit a 76-yard punt in college, and his ability to flip the field on an opponent played a large role in the Panthers drafting him as a specialist in the sixth round of 2012’s draft.
He had punts of 72, 61 and 58 yards on the day.
“It was just one of those days where I was trusting my process and how I hit the ball,” Nortman said. “It was a cross wind so it really wasn’t with me or against me. I tried to use it to my advantage a couple of times. It was one of those days were I was feeling good, powerful.
“I had seven today so I was able to get into a routine. I really got to give it to my cover guys. A 60-some-yard punt, no matter how much hang you put on it, it’s hard to cover.”
Observations• Josh Thomas’ first-quarter interception was tipped six times by players on both teams before he came down with it.
• Graham Gano’s blocked field goal appeared to have hit off the back of Travelle Wharton’s head. Gano took the blame for the low kick, and Wharton said he didn’t even feel the ball hit him.
• After going the first nine games with Newton leading the team in rushing only once, the quarterback has led the team on the ground in each of the past two games.
• After the game Newton met with Hall of Fame coach and father of Mike Shula, Don, and took pictures with the former Miami coach.
By the numbers
14 game streak without a first-quarter touchdown allowed snapped.
41 yards on a punt return by Ted Ginn Jr., besting his previous season-high of 25.
5 games it took for the Panthers to earn their first win ever against Miami.
6 fourth-down conversions out of eight tries to the Panthers.
52 yard field goal by Gano in the first quarter, the sixth 50-plus-yarder he’s made this year.
Quotes• “Spartanburg gets you ready to play anywhere. I train down here in the summer, so this is nothing.” – Carolina free safety Mike Mitchell.
• “We’ve been there, we’ve failed and now it’s time to start winning these games.” – Carolina wide receiver Brandon LaFell.
• “I don’t think (the NFL investigation) was a distraction at all. We did our time, but we were fully prepared for this game.” – Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
• “By no means did we play well today, but we played well enough to beat a very good team.” – Carolina tight end Greg Olsen.