CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday shrugged off the impact of a thumb injury on his throwing hand and how it impacted his accuracy in a 35-27 victory over the New York Jets.
But coach Ron Rivera reiterated Monday that the injury that landed Newton on the injury report for two days last week could have been a factor in his quarterback completing a season-low 39.3 percent of his passes.
“That’s possibly why a few of the balls sailed on him,” Rivera said of Newton, who completed 11 of 28 pass attempts for 168 yards.
Rivera said the thumb is getting better, and he didn’t express concern it would be a factor heading into Sunday’s showdown at 8-3 New Orleans for first place in the NFC South.
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula also didn’t express concern, although he admitted early last week “it was a little bit of an adjustment” for Newton throwing with the injury.
Wide receiver Devin Funchess, who caught seven of eight targets for 108 yards, said the “funky weather” could have been a factor in Newton’s struggles.
“The wind was stopping it. It carried some of them,” Funchess said of Newton’s passes. “We all got injuries. You’ve got to play through ‘em. So that’s what he did, as well.
“But the wind was out there carrying the ball, too. You can’t blame it all on his thumb.”
Newton’s previous low completion percentage this season was 53.8 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Jets game dropped his season average to 60.3, putting him behind his career-best average of 61.7 in 2013.
Newton completed 65.4 percent of his passes in a 34-13 loss to New Orleans in Week 3 but had no touchdown passes and was intercepted three times.
He ran the ball only three times for 16 games against the Saints. It wasn’t until the fourth game at New England that the 2015 NFL MVP was turned loose in the running game. He carried eight times for 44 yards against the Patriots.
He’s averaged 8.6 carries over the last eight games, including nine carries for 28 yards and a touchdown against the Jets.
That, more than the thumb, could be a factor on Sunday.
“Always his threat, I think; teams have to account for that,” Shula said. “We give him a little freedom, and he does a good job with that. He understands that teams have to respect what he can bring to the table running-wise as well.
“As long as he does it with a sound process in mind, that’s going to be helpful.”