You could see what the Giants were trying to do to Cam Newton on Sunday. From the very first play of the game, the plan was to blitz him as much as possible, get him on the ground, and try to knock him out of his rhythm. In some ways the plan, which has worked before, was a success—Newton was sacked three times and hit six times, and grimaced in pain after taking shots to his knee and shoulder. And yet, there’s Newton’s sparkling entry in the box score: 340 passing yards, five touchdowns, and 100 yards rushing. No one has ever seen a performance like this:
There’s been a lot of talk this season about Cam Newton’s growth as a player. He started the year off as essentially the same often electric and often shaky quarterback he’s always been, but he’s reached another level during this back half of the season—he’s tossed 24 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in his last eight games—and yesterday’s game was a particularly big step forward. The Giants were in his face all game, and Newton responded by carving them up with exactly the kind of quick-fire attack we’re used to seeing Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers roll over defenses with. He was in control all game, and even when the Giants reversed the course of the blowout and tied the game at 35 in the fourth quarter, he remained in control. Here’s how he reacted on the sideline after Odell Beckham Jr. tied the game with under two minutes to play:
The drive that followed oozed with even more confidence than the head nod. He went 3-of-4 for 37 yards through the air, and put the team in field-goal range with a heady 10-yard scramble. This was a game that had been falling apart in the Panthers’ hands just a few minutes prior, and suddenly Newton was out there winning it as if doing so was the easiest thing in the world.
Earlier this season, I wrote about how Newton was so fun to watch because even his bad games always managed to contain pockets of undeniable brilliance. Now, that brilliance never seems to go away, and Newton is just as imperious and unflappable as any of the square-jawed leaders we’ve seen popped out of the Franchise Quarterback Mold. Newton’s ownership of the position evolved in its own particular way, but it’s just as real as anyone else’s.