CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton is eager to break out of a four-game slump and the Atlanta Falcons could be exactly the opponent the fourth-year quarterback needs.
Newton's Carolina Panthers have lost four straight games and the 2013 Pro Bowler has completed just 52 percent of his passes and thrown twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdown passes during that span.
Enter the struggling Falcons, Newton's hometown team and an opponent he seems to thrive against.
He's won his past three starts against Atlanta and has thrown nine TD passes and run for four scores in six career starts against the Falcons.
In addition, he'll face an Atlanta secondary that ranks last in the league in pass defense, allowing more than 280 yards per game through the air.
"He's a guy who's given us some problems," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "He's such a big, athletic quarterback. It's tough to get him on the ground. They've got designed runs you've got to defend, and you've also got to be concerned when he scrambles. He doesn't always scramble to run, he scrambles to pass. And he's got a big arm. So those are big concerns for you."
Newton is confident the Panthers are about to turn the corner after going 1-6-1 in their past eight games.
"We're past due for a great game," Newton said.
Newton was sacked nine times and turned the ball over four times in a 45-21 loss to Philadelphia on Monday night. The Falcons haven't provided much of a pass rush all season with just 11 sacks, although four of those came last Sunday against Tampa Bay.
"I'm going back to the little things — the check downs, protecting the football and overall execution of the offense and that will get us over the hump," Newton said.
In a division where New Orleans (4-5) has the best record, the Panthers (3-6-1) and Falcons (3-6) both still have a chance to win the NFC South.
"You never know how a year is going to shake out and this year has certainly been different than any I've been a part of," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said.