Newton out of sophomore slump
Posted December 10, 2012
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers were written off weeks ago, cast aside in favor of the ongoing exploits of this year's rookie quarterback class and their playoff contending teams. There were only so many ways to dissect the excruciatingly close loses through October and discuss whether or not Newton actually had a future in the league.
The sideline demeanor. The towel on his head. The depressing theatre of his post game comments. The lack of self awareness when busting out the Superman pose. The clothing line. The comparisons to Vince Young. The Pro Bowl diva stories. All of it fair game for pundits who had their "told you so" takes sitting in the drafts folder, waiting for the sheen of Newton's record-breaking debut to fade.
But Newton has settled down in the second half of his sophomore season. It started in Washington with a mistake free performance that resulted in a win. Following a quick reversion against Denver, arguably one of the best teams in the AFC, Newton has strung together his best football in the last four games.
Newton completed over 60% of his passes for 1,077 yards and threw 8 touchdowns during the stretch. He's rushed for almost 300 yards and punched it in 3 times, including an incredible 72-yard rushing touchdown against Atlanta that has been looped on the highlight shows.
No interceptions. No fumbles. No word about the turnaround in last few weeks, which put Newton back on pace to match or exceed his rookie numbers.
Most of that has to do with the lost season in Charlotte. The Panthers were supposed to contend for a playoff spot, but that ship sailed long ago. While there is optimism for a strong finish, it's still a flawed Panthers squad with a nasty habit of allowing teams hang around. Even the most optimistic finish of 7-9 likely results in the dismissal of head coach Ron Rivera.
The bottom line -- Carolina's problems cannot be laid at the feet of an individual. That's difficult to process given the current quarterback culture of the NFL and Newton's slow maturation process. So let's throw in a little equal time when Newton answers the critics with his performance.