CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Kyle Allen keeps on winning, making Panthers coach Ron Rivera’s inevitable decision on who will be the team's starting quarterback more difficult with each passing week.
Allen started out as an undrafted QB who beat Arizona on the road in Week 3 to help the Panthers after starting 0-2 at home under Cam Newton. But after leading the Panthers to four straight victories it’s hard not to wonder if Carolina isn’t better off sticking with Allen even when Newton is healthy enough to play.
For some, it sounds ridiculous given Newton was the league MVP four years ago.
"As much credit as I can give to Kyle Allen and as much credit as he deserves, we’re talking a healthy Cam Newton and at the end of the day, I’m taking a healthy Cam Newton over a Kyle Allen,” said Molly Cotten, a co-host on ESPN’s ‘The Wake Up Call’.
On Tuesday, Rivera addressed Newton's condition and cited his history with the team, saying he's been a standout captain and done everything the team has asked.
"The problem with it is that Cam has epitomized what we asked of him as a captain. He's been there and been supportive of his teammates since he's been around," Rivera said.
The coach did not specifically address considerations on who would be starting once Cam is healthy, but it's no secret that Newton hasn’t been himself in a long time. He’s lost eight straight starts while Allen, on the other hand, is 5-0 as an NFL starter, including 4-0 this season.
"We're not going to put pressure on him, we're going to hold tight, we're going to hold the fort down," Rivera said. "Until he's 100 percent, until he's ready to roll we're not going to address it."
Allen efficiently completed 20 of 32 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday to lead the Panthers to a 37-26 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London. In four starts, he's completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 901 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions and a 106.6 quarterback rating, which ranks fifth in the NFL behind only Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins and Deshaun Watson.
Allen is the first NFL quarterback in history to win his first five starts without throwing an interception, although he has turned the ball over four times on fumbles.
So, the question becomes whether Rivera should reinsert Newton into the starting lineup once he’s healthy enough to play. The Panthers have a bye week coming up, giving Newton extra time to rest before the next game Oct. 27 at San Francisco.
A few weeks ago, Rivera said it was Newton’s job when he returned, but the ninth-year coach wasn’t ready to discuss hypotheticals after Carolina’s latest win.
“I’m not going to worry, speculate on anything until I have to address that. Until then, we’re going to stay in the now, focus on what we’re doing right now. Again, as far as I’m concerned, we’re just not going to deal with the question until it’s time. (Newton) is in his rehab program, doing his program. Our quarterback right now that has been playing for us is Kyle. We’re not going to address it.”
At least for now, it appears to be Allen’s team — and deservedly so.
In terms of the rest of the team, Carolina’s defense has been nothing short of fantastic during the team’s four-game winning streak, racking of 23 sacks and 14 turnovers, eight on interceptions and six on fumbles.
“That’s what’s winning the game here. Kyle Allen is doing great and the offense is doing great but at the end of the day this defense forcing turnovers continuing to get after the quarterback,” Superbowl Champ and FOX 46 Pre-game show commentator Roman Harper said.
They flustered Jameis Winston all day on Sunday, forcing five interceptions while sacking him seven times, and Carolina got a great push inside the tackles with Gerald McCoy, Vernon Butler and Dontari Poe combining for 5½ sacks.
As for other injuries, the Panthers Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner is still recovering from an ankle injury. Cornerback Donte Jackson is also out with a groin injury. The team hopes they will both be back from injuries after the bye week.
Christian McCaffrey continues to lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage and has scored five touchdowns in the past two games, including a nifty TD reception where he juked out a defender and stiff-armed another to get into the end zone. McCaffrey has 923 yards from scrimmage. The next-closest player is Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook with 796.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.