Cam Newton's proclamation for Panthers sounds like wishful thinking

Cam Newton: It's gut check time for a lot of people, including myself (0:57)

Panthers QB Cam Newton had threw interceptions and had just 167 yards in Sunday's loss to the Saints. He needs to be better offensively to make a difference against the Patriots next week. (0:57)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Quarterback Cam Newton proclaimed on Sunday that better things are ahead for the Carolina Panthers and their struggling offense.

He might be right, but it’s hard to see how.

Newton can’t seem to knock off the rust from offseason shoulder surgery, and being limited in practice -- as he was for three days last week -- doesn’t help because he has no opportunity to get in a rhythm.

Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen is out at least another seven weeks with a broken foot that he suffered last week against the Buffalo Bills.

Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil has missed consecutive games after waking up eight days ago with a mysterious “crick" in his neck. His brother, left tackle Matt Kalil, keeps giving up sacks in crucial situations, such as the third-and-4 from the opposition's 8-yard line on the first drive of Sunday’s 34-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

And oh, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin on Sunday injured the same knee that ended his 2015 season in that year's training camp. If his injury turns out bad, then Carolina will be moving forward without its top two receivers from last season.

“Moving forward, there is no need to panic," Newton said. “There is no need to rush. There is no need to be up in arms about the situation. Should you be frustrated as a fan? Absolutely."

The fans are frustrated, despite a 2-1 start. They spent the preseason hearing about how potent this offense would be with new weapons such as Christian McCaffrey (102 yards receiving against the Saints) and Curtis Samuel. Yet through the first three games, it has produced three touchdowns and eight field goals.

It went seven quarters without a touchdown from the third quarter of the opener at San Francisco to the third quarter against the Saints, when Newton ran 3 yards for a score.

Fans booed when the Panthers punted on fourth-and-5 from the New Orleans' 35 midway through the fourth quarter, seemingly sensing things were getting desperate.

Newton shouldered the blame on Sunday -- as he should have -- for what he called a “lackluster performance." Three interceptions, no touchdown passes and 167 yards passing is indeed lackluster.

The 2015 NFL MVP said it’s gut check time for a lot of players, and he started with himself.

“I put the defense in some screwed-up situations, and in order for us to win, that can’t happen," Newton said. “Trying to make a play and force things. Trying to find a spark.

“I feel like if I play better, the outcome is different."

Newton has to play better. Next up is Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on the road. The Patriots on Sunday put up 36 points against a Houston Texans defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL a year ago.

Brady had five touchdown passes, which in one game is three more than Newton has thrown in three outings. Brady has eight scoring throws on the season.

You win by scoring touchdowns, unless you have the 1985 Chicago Bears' defense.

The Panthers don’t.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees put to rest any thoughts that the Panthers might with three touchdown passes against a unit that didn’t give up a touchdown in the first two games and ranked first in the NFL.

But Brees was effective, in part, because he was able to maintain a solid mixture of run and pass. He was able to do that because he wasn’t playing catch-up -- because the Panthers had settled for field goals on their first two drives that ate up 13 minutes, 17 seconds.

You could hear the frustration in Panthers coach Ron Rivera’s voice when he said “we screwed ourselves by not making plays when we had opportunities."

Until Newton starts getting more time practicing during the week, the inconsistencies could continue. Rivera admitted it’s “hard’’ to develop chemistry with the receivers when the trainers are resting Newton’s shoulder.

Newton admitted it’s “tough."

He also said he was ready to play and that Sunday's contest came down to letting the Saints off the hook by settling for field goals early.

Newton believes that will change, that “big things are ahead for us."

It’s just hard to see how right now.