Play-action is helping Cam Newton

Although there has been a lot of talk about how Carolina’s running game has been missing for the most part, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have been a bigger help to rookie quarterback Cam Newton than you may realize.

The mere presence of Williams and Stewart has made life easier for Newton. He’s had good success with play-action passes, after faking handoffs to Williams and Stewart.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Newton is 23 of 38 (60.5 percent) for 341 yards on play-action passes. His yardage total is second only to Drew Brees in the NFC South and Newton’s 9.9-yard average on play-action passes is the best among division quarterbacks.

Brees is 31 of 46 (67.4 percent) for 355 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has been the division’s most accurate passer off play-action, completing 24 of 32 (75 percent), but his yardage total (309) is less than that of Brees and Newton. Ryan has thrown for two touchdowns and one interception out of play-action. But the most significant statistic is that Ryan hasn’t been sacked on a play-action pass. Considering how Ryan’s taken a beating otherwise, the Falcons might to want to use more play-action.

Tampa Bay has used play-action passing less than any team in the division. Josh Freeman has completed 12 of 25 attempts (48 percent) for 147 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.