Panthers coach Matt Rhule again publicly criticized Newton on Sunday after the Panthers’ 31-14 loss to Buffalo in which Newton completed under 50 percent of his passes and had just 156 yards with a touchdown and an interception through the air. Rhule’s criticism stemmed from a decision Newton made to throw the ball on fourth-and-1 from midfield.

The Panthers had just called a timeout to get set for the play. But instead of handing it off, like Rhule claims Newton was supposed to, he opted to throw across his body to Robby Anderson, who was nowhere to be found.

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“It’s a zone read,” Rhule said following the game. “There’s a bubble on there in case an unblocked blitzer comes. The Mike point, we had that guy blocked. So, that’s just an error by the quarterback. That should be a handoff, first down. He pulls the ball, there’s only one guy over there. Just poor execution. But it was the right play call by Jeff [Nixon]. It’s gonna be a first down.”

This isn’t the first time Rhule has publicly admonished Newton and used him as a scapegoat. After last week’s game, he was similarly critical.

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The Panthers also made a midseason change at offensive coordinator, when former wunderkind Joe Brady was relieved of his duties several weeks ago.

Regardless of who’s been calling the offensive plays, both the team and Newton have struggled, though. Carolina ranks 25th in scoring offense and 29th in total offense and 29th in passing yards and 31st in touchdowns.

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Newton, who was brought in earlier this season to replace the injured Sam Darnold, has played in five games and started four for Carolina, completing 54.9 percent of his passes for 623 yards and four touchdowns and four interceptions apiece. He also has five rushing touchdowns on the season.

At 5-9, Carolina sits at last in the NFC South with its final three games against Tampa twice and New Orleans once.