Here’s the funny thing about Cam Newton, who has so far led the Carolina Panthers to a 9-0 record: his numbers aren’t even all that spectacular. They are perfectly good—2,037 yards through the air, 366 on the ground, 21 total touchdowns, nine interceptions—but they don’t have quite the same unassailable sparkle (he’s only completing 56 percent of his passes) that we usually see when a great quarterback is leading his team on a rampage through the league. And yet I don’t think there’s any quarterback in the NFL I’d rather watch than Cam Newton.
This is partly because Newton is a big, fun personality on the field, and he often does things that enrage more curmudgeonly players and fans. See yesterday’s touchdown dance, which he kept doing even while the Tennessee Titans tried to fight him:
And here is Newton explaining those dance moves:
My favorite thing about watching any Panthers game is that even when Newton’s putting on a relatively mediocre performance, he still manages to smuggle strikes of brilliance into the game. These moments usually take the form of sudden and efficient scoring drives, in which Newton snaps off a handful of passes that could, even if just for a second, have anyone convinced that he’s the best quarterback in the league.
Sometimes these drives come at the very end of the game, just in time to make doubting sportswriters look stupid. Sometimes they come in the middle, as was the case when Newton went 5-of-5 on a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive against the Eagles in Week 7. Yesterday, Newton started with a flash.
On the Panthers’ first possession, Newton led the offense on a scoring drive that went 63 yards in eight plays. When they got the ball back, he needed nine plays to take them 80 yards down the field for another score. Newton’s contributions to the drive were: a 14-yard pass over the middle to Greg Olsen, a short out to Corey Brown for eight yards, a heady scramble for four yards and a first down, a 27-yard completion up the right seam that hit Devin Funchess right in stride, a 19-yard bullet over the middle to Ted Ginn Jr., and then three short passes in the red zone, the last of which was for a touchdown.
The pass to Ginn Jr., which weaved over and through a number of Titans defenders, was my favorite of the bunch:
Newton completed his first 11 passes of the game yesterday, and finished 21-of-26. He could have thrown each of this last 15 passes into the ground and his performance still would have been one of the day’s most entertaining. That’s because when Newton gets on a roll like he was on those first two drives, it looks like he’s playing against children. He’s just so strong and so accurate that it doesn’t even matter who he’s throwing to—this is a team that calls Ted Ginn, Jr. a No. 1 receiver, mind you—he just keeps moving his team down the field like there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Here’s hoping Newton keeps throwing bullets and dabbing on folks throughout the playoffs.