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Bill Belichick didn’t exactly send the house at Cam Newton on Monday night, but he dialed up more pressure than usual in the first half, bringing an extra pass rusher on seven of 15 passing plays.
Newton responded with a sinister laugh. “You want to blitz me? Go ahead.”
Almost every significant play the Panthers had on offense was the result of Newton and the Panthers taking advantage of the Patriots’ aggressiveness.
The 42-yard pass to Steve Smith in the first quarter? The Patriots rushed six defenders. The 9-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell? Also on a blitz, with the throw landing in the spot that a blitzing Dane Fletcher vacated. Newton’s 24-yard run on third and 6 in the second quarter? Another six-man pass rush, with Newton running right past a blitzing Dont’a Hightower. The crucial defensive holding call on Devin McCourty on third and 7 on the Panthers’ final drive? You guessed it — another blitz.