On some sacks, Newton held on to the ball for a relative eternity. However, head coach Ron Rivera acknowledged there was room for improvement up front as well.
"Unfortunately, there are still a couple of things that Matt still has to get used to in terms of protections, the way we do protections," Rivera said, via the Charlotte Observer. "[He needs to] get into a little bit more of a comfort zone in his understanding and feel for Cam."
This is no small issue in Carolina. The Panthers' offense is nothing like the line-friendly version that bolstered Newton's best traits en route to a Super Bowl appearance in 2015, which means more offensive linemen adept at handling premium edge rushers are necessary. Newton will be in the pocket longer.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It prolongs the playing career of a great NFL quarterback. Against the Bills on Sunday, the offense had some brief flashes of effectiveness, especially on the opening field goal drive when Newton was rolling through his progressions and hitting the open receiver. It's when this complex process broke down that problems arose.
Carolina will not be able to survive scoring nine points per game for the rest of the season, and Newton won't be a happy camper with six or seven hits per game either. Rivera will have a close eye on the left side this Sunday against the Saints in hopes of a brighter performance -- and glimpse into the future.