The Carolina Panthers pulled out a 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots last night that moved both teams to 7-3, but the controversial ending has overshadowed much of what was a very good football game. One of the key aspects that is being overlooked is the performance of Panthers third year quarterback Cam Newton, who is getting better every week.
Newton completed 19/28 passes for 209 yards and 3TDs while rushing 7 times for 62 yards. He displayed his unique all around game, but he also showed just how far he has come as a pocket passer. Newton was efficient and made good decisions, and he now understands the importance of protecting the football and taking what the defense gives you.
This season, Newton is posting a career high 63.2% completion percentage and a career best 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio. He has become far more comfortable in command of the offense, and he is now a quarterback who is equally lethal in the pocket and on the run. After being turnover prone and struggling to lead the team to wins in his first two seasons, Newton is now growing into the player that many thought he could be when the Panthers took him No. 1 overall in 2011.
The word “elite” is often thrown around too loosely when it comes to quarterbacks, as it should on be reserved for the absolute best of the best (Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees). However, Newton’s progression this season has made it look like he will force his way into that conversation soon, and he has solidified his standing in the tier of NFL quarterbacks who are just below the truly elite.
Newton’s emergence is the biggest reason the Panthers are one the surprise teams in the NFL this season, and they are making a very strong case that they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. It is always impressive to see what happens when it finally clicks for a player as talented as Newton, and that is what has happened this season. This is the player the Panthers envisioned when they made Newton the top pick in the draft, and he is only going to get better.