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Cam Newton presents a totally different challenge for the Packers’ defense Sunday. The Carolina quarterback is the virtual opposite of Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, who bedeviled the Packers in their last two games.
Unlike Manning and Rivers, crafty veterans with quick releases who are cool in the pocket, Newton can be flustered by a strong pass rush. The key is containment and making Newton throw, rather than allowing him to run.
With a clean pocket, Newton is an average thrower (96.2 passer rating vs. the NFL average of 98.1). But make him throw under pressure and his passer rating plummets (35.2 vs. the NFL average of 72.1). His numbers when pressure are an abysmal 30-for-64 for 408 yards with five interceptions (four of which have comes on passes 10 yards are deeper in the middle of the field)).
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen rarely draws double coverage, but the Packers might want to consider it. When Newton is forced to throw under pressure, he does significantly different when he targets Olsen than when he looks for No. 1 wide receiver Tedd Ginn, Jr. Olsen has caught nine of 12 attempts for 152 yards in those situations; Ginn has only one catch in nine attempts for 37 yards.
Newton can be sacked — 15.1 percent of his pressured dropbacks have resulted in sacks, which ranks him 14th out of 29 quarterbacks. But Newton is dangerous when allowed to scramble: the Panthers quarterback has scrambled 14 times this season for 103 yards (7.4 average) and a touchdown.