CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton admittedly “let my foot off the gas" last season when New Orleans linebacker Michael Mauti blindsided him with a helmet-to-helmet blow while he attempted to score.
Newton said he deserved it.
He vowed it wouldn't happen again.
“Playing this game, you have to finish," Newton said at the time. “That's what Coach harps on each and every day, and I didn't do that right there."
Well, it happened again.
Newton unnecessarily let off the gas as he attempted to run in a two-point conversion around the left side with 11:47 remaining in Sunday’s 48-33 loss to Atlanta.
Linebacker Deion Jones made him pay for it, delivering a legal helmet-to-helmet blow to Newton as the NFL MVP seemingly jogged to the goal line.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera said Newton “probably" could have avoided the hit. Even Jones admitted Newton seemed to let up.
The blow sent Newton to the sideline to be evaluated for a concussion. He ultimately was placed in the concussion protocol, which makes him a candidate to miss Carolina’s next game on Monday night, Oct. 10, against Tampa Bay.
So let’s take a look at the play.
The Panthers were trailing 34-16 before the 2-point conversion attempt. Newton took the snap out of the shotgun, made one look like he might pass and took off up the middle.
Left guard Andrew Norwell pancaked an Atlanta defender in front of Newton, and the quarterback bounced outside to his left for what appeared an easy conversion. But out of nowhere, Jones appeared and hammered Newton as he reached the goal line. Newton went backward, obviously staggered. His left knee almost went to the ground, but he had the wherewithal to gather his balance with his left arm and stretch the ball over the goal line in his right hand as he fell.
Newton immediately dropped his head to the ground, staying there for several seconds before going to the sideline. Doctors evaluated him for a concussion and he did not return as Derek Anderson finished.
With 30 seconds remaining in the game, it was ruled that Newton was in the concussion protocol.
The difference between this situation and the 2015 game against New Orleans was that Newton stayed in for three more plays against the Saints to complete the touchdown drive before being evaluated. He ultimately was cleared in that one to return.
In both cases, the hit could have been avoided had Newton not let up.